So you came across an “Ok, Boomer” meme and got offended. That’s completely understandable. Generational differences in the workplace have always been a sore spot for several businesses. Millennials are believed to have been born with silver spoons and supposedly have it easy and Baby Boomers are considered old fashioned and not tech savvy.
Your company may believe in diversity – of thought, gender, ethnicity, and anything else – but does it respect generational diversity? Companies may focus on enhancing their male-female employee ratio. But their age-based stereotypes are ignored, and recruitment processes don’t prioritise generational diversity.
Does the younger generation have it easy?
Millennials and Zillennials are often discriminated against for their age. Leaders think the younger generation has it easy as the road was already paved by the older generation. They have better resources and need not make important decisions that the older generation had to. But millennials are more independent, and many are following their passions and running their own businesses.
“The reason I push myself to work extra days is so that this bias doesn’t arise. I don’t want anybody to tell me I have it easy as my parents worked hard during their time. I don’t want them to question my ideas and my unconventional job choice or ask me if I care about my future. I do! Just because my father was earning twice my income and managing his finances at my age, doesn’t mean I should have everything sorted out too. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean I am wasting my time,” said a photographer at a renowned newspaper agency in Chennai.
Are the older generation technophobes?
It is a misconception that Baby Boomers are averse to technology. This generation grew up with the advent of telecommunication. While boomers might be slow to adopt and learn new technology compared to a 25-year old, they are not afraid of the newest smartphone or online payment methods. In fact, they are quite curious about all of them.
“My father is 74-years old and knows more about laptops, smartphones, Wi-Fi and hardware than I do. In fact, he embraces technology a lot faster than me,” said a communications manager who works for a sales training organisation.
Benefits of having generational diversity in your team
People of different age groups bring varied perspectives and ideas to the table. While Gen Z is good at following trends and are diverse, Millennials seek reassurance, love collaboration and don’t believe in hierarchy. While Gen X are independent and are great at stabilising finances and planning, boomers have strong work ethics, love being mentors and know how to build a loyal customer base.
When all these forces join hands, businesses can develop a more inclusive work culture.
Ways your organisation can be more inclusive
Let’s cut to the chase. Having a generationally diverse workspace will benefit your business in more ways than one. Here are some ways organisations can welcome generational diversity and become more inclusive.
#1 Hello Technology, Our Old Friend
Technology is progressing rapidly, and the older generation might be slow on the uptake. Create an environment where the younger generation can help the older generation understand technology and apps.
Gen Y and Gen Z know how to create tasks using apps and enhance productivity in teams by putting technology to its optimum use. “This meeting could have been an email!” – you might have heard your younger employees use this phrase a lot. And in a way, you have to admit it is true. It is time businesses found ways to save time and effort.
“I recently joined a company run entirely by millennials. The oldest person on the team was 28 years old! When I asked my boss for a review meeting, he told me to just drop my report on our Slack group. This was a new app for me – so was Wrike which was the platform on which he assigned tasks to me. When I think of my past companies, people weren’t so tech savvy. I think businesses should have specific sessions every week to discuss what’s new in the tech world and what they can implement to make work easier for the team,” said a content creator at an advertising agency in Chennai.
#2 Be flexible and empathetic
There are various topics of conflict between various generations. They tend to get touchy when there are genuine differences in opinion or values. By this, we mean instances where both parties are right in their mindset. One of these topics is work timings and formally structured organisations.
Millennials have embraced the hybrid working system, especially after the onset of the pandemic. They don’t appreciate being told to clock in by 9 am and stop working at 5 pm. They don’t appreciate not being able to work at their most productive time and sign out when they feel they have finished.
Above all, they feel restricted when there are strict structures or hierarchies maintained in the organisation. If they have to keep updating the team or boss about their progress, they get frustrated and burnt out.
The best way to combat this would be to allow some level of flexibility in work timings. Permit your employees to work when they are most productive and take time off work when they feel drained. Let’s say, eight hours of work per day is a must. The choice of when to work and for how long should be left up to them. Remote working is a boon for al generations, but everyone faces different challenges that need to be addressed.
#3 Welcome new perspectives and cut the judgment
Try to welcome new ideas from your employees and be open to various perspectives. Your employees will feel demotivated if a majority of their ideas are shot down or there are frequent revisions to their work.
Let your employees know that their ideas are welcome and will not be judged. Understand what position each of your employees is in. Once you understand your employees and what backgrounds they are from, you can better comprehend their decisions and predict their moves.
Provide your Gen Z employees with roles of leadership and understand what decisions they are making. Do the same for your baby boomers and compare their responses to various situations. This will help you formulate a common ground that appeals to both parties. Never put your employees (of any age) into boxes and restrict their ideas or plans of action. It will drain them quicker or will make them get accustomed to a certain culture of working that they can’t pull out of.
#4 Try role-reversal exercises
The best way to understand the new generation is to think from their perspective. Have regular role-reversal sessions to put yourself in their shoes and understand their decisions. Have sessions where you approach the problem from their perspective and how you would react to the situation.
A case study
A Customer Relationship Manager at a popular telemarketing firm in Bangalore said, “My organisation hosts an activity every month to teach us how to empathise and arrive at constructive decisions. For example, a recent one featured how we could ensure that work got completed without employees playing the blame game. Members of the older generation suggested creating a WhatsApp group where work assigned and completed could be updated.”
“The younger generation recommended a CRM tool called Bitrix24 wherein employees could assign tasks to each other with specific deadlines. It had an advantage as employees could check each other’s availability to assign tasks accordingly. This helped us understand how different generations approach problems. The younger generation turns to the latest technology while the older generation believes in the power of direct communication,” she said.
So how can all the generations work together?
Inclusivity is the key to having a strong and diverse team. Managing various generations in the workplace may seem challenging at first. But the variety of life experiences and values that are brought to the table will help your business skyrocket. Your workplace will become more empathetic, innovative, profitable and will attain their goals more effectively.
More than any other form of diversity, generational diversity is one of the few that affects a business’s success. No matter what generation an employee belongs to – strong leadership, transparency, and a consistent effort to keep employees engaged makes everyone, regardless of age, feel valued for their contributions.