Age is a beautiful number. It is an indication of experience, knowledge, and a wonderful mark of your existence. It defines your experiences and interactions in both personal and professional life. No matter which industry you work in, you will notice how people of all generations come together to collaborate in unique ways.
Ensuring generational diversity will help your workspace thrive and attain sustainable growth. Your team can bring varying perspectives and an eclectic blend of ideas through the combined effort of their minds. While the younger generation brings fresh ideas to the table, the seniors bring in experience to weigh those ideas and understand their potential of being implemented.
However, in many organizations generational issues have been a challenge for ages. This is predominantly due to the gap in values and motivations their employees exhibit owing to their age and mindset. Advancement in technology has divided the generations further due to a difference in perspectives towards technological penetration.
“We work at a digital marketing agency and our manager fires anyone over 30. He says people’s mindsets change over time, and people who reach a certain age stop valuing the opinions of those younger than them. This is not true, and I have collaborated well with people who are almost a decade older than me. It is almost like creativity, innovation, and an awareness of modern technology are limited to the younger generation,” said a content strategist from a reputed marketing agency in Bangalore.
The generations of employees can be divided broadly as:
- Baby boomers: It includes people nearing their retirement or who have already retired. These people are the ones who have stayed loyal to the company for years and continue to stay attached.
- Generation X: This consists of those born between 1965 to 1979. They are still professionally active, but stick to traditional means of communication and collaboration with limited awareness of modern technology.
- Generation Y comprises millennials and those from the digital generation. They are born between 1980 and 1996 and were the first to embrace technology. However, this generation has been accused of resisting authority figures.
- Generation Z is the most recent generation of individuals known as post-millennials. They consist of people born after 1996 and belong to the era of smartphones and the Internet.
While these categorizations exist, the truth is generalization often does not apply to individuals. In many organizations, there are Gen X employees who can handle technology well while Gen Y and Z coming from a conservative cultural background might display regressive ideologies. Organizations need to remember this while sensitizing people to biases and breaking down barriers in the workplace. They need to create a culture of diversity that welcomes all generations equally, irrespective of their age and experience. They must encourage mutual respect and motivate their employees by understanding the nuances of individuals employees.
“Consider a father and son having a conversation. If the father chastises his son for any errors committed, it sounds fine. But what if the son noticed his father making a mistake and chose to correct him? This as well sounds fine to me as it is how I was brought up. It is my parents encouraging two-way communication even when I was three that has shaped my mindset today. Even though I am 57, I listen openly to people younger than me. I listen to their opinions and learn from their constructive criticism without the ego barrier. This respect and two-way communication are a must for any company to thrive,” said a chartered accountant from Bangalore.
How do we attain generational diversity?
Through interesting activities:
Someone recently shared an interesting activity with us:
An innovative game is played in the workplace to help teams collaborate and understand each other. The employees are made to stand in a line that has a mix of GenX, GenY, GenZ, and baby boomers.
The person at the head of the line is told a sentence such as “Ramesh decided to quit his job because…”
The task is for the employees to complete the story by each person adding one line of their own. This is an interesting and unique exercise as the direction of the story keeps changing depending on people and their mindsets.
People of the younger generation were found to say
- Because his grievances were not respected by the team
- Because he felt he had no growth in the environment
- Because the atmosphere was too toxic for his mental health
- Because he was neither earning nor learning anything from the job
People of the older generation lean towards:
- Because he found there was no job security
- Because he had to travel too far every day
- Owing to his physical health issues
- As he received no promotions for many cycles
- He couldn’t spend time with his family
- As the insurance and benefits offered by the company didn’t suit him
As you can see, the goals and values reflected in the answers are very different, but every single employee wishes to be recognized by the team and valued by the employers. The desire to be validated and seen — is a recurring trait no matter which generation they belong to. This exercise helps different generations view the story through the eyes of their older or younger counterparts.
It helps the team connect and build a diverse environment. While the older generation can impart financial and stability-related values, the younger generation can offer a plethora of innovative perspectives and technological guidance. Together, both generations can bring unique results and vibrant profits for the business by creatively executing tasks.
Set ground rules and expectations
Clarify the company’s workflow to all your employees. Let them know that you don’t care about how the work is completed. You only want the work to get done accurately within the stipulated deadline.
Whether the employee works better in a quiet space or a loud one, in the wee hours of the morning or way past midnight, while sitting erect at a desk or while lazing on a beanbag — it shouldn’t matter.
This will also encourage employees to work smart and get the job done in whatever way suitable. The way your employees of different generations arrive at the solution is not relevant once you establish that only a solution is required!
Improve digital literacy with workshops and sessions
Technology can help teams collaborate better and work faster. Whether you choose to have workshops or encourage tech-savvy employees to share their knowledge, it is always good to level the playing field. Everyone needs to be aware of the right apps and websites that can help with
- Work updates for the team
- Time management
Teamwork is more important than your team just working. Modern apps like Slack and Wrike make it easy to share work and assign tasks to the team. You can try softwares such as Hubstaff and Bitrix to track time and communicate with your team better. Even something as simple as a WhatsApp group or Teams meeting can help your team stay in the loop with each other.
Opt for team effectiveness coaching
Generational diversity can be bridged by opting for teamwork management training. group coaching from an experienced tutor. Teach your team how to handle communication styles and modern slang terms that are used in workplaces. It is two-way learning as your younger generation needs to know the right business etiquette while speaking to clients and your older employees need to understand modern articles and blogs full of slang.
For example, GenX might prefer to use sticky notes and memos while Genz can convey the same message through emojis or single-letter responses. Your older employees might expect a meeting to discuss a certain subject while your younger generation could get it done with a single text.
“I used to think my peers hate me owing to the way they spoke to me. I would share an idea excitedly only to be met with K or a thumbs-up emoji. On the other hand, my peers would get annoyed when I responded with laughing emojis or slang words like OMG and Gr8! It took us a while to sort out the communication gap and we realized all our messages meant the same thing – approval and encouragement for a job well done,” said a perky sales representative from an agency in Hyderabad.
Teamwork takes time and it is not easy to transform groups into teams. While companies and their leaders might acknowledge the difference in values and mindset across generations, it is also important to hone leadership and teamwork skills. Stakeholder management is an art and learning this can help teams navigate differences for collective output. It is important to understand the nuances and get them to bond over shared goals. These goals can be organizational and also personal incentives like financial security, insurance and perks, activities, targets, creative freedom, smart working habits, etc.
Creating a culture of empathy and accountability by tapping into your team’s needs is important. Try to use the power of executive coaching to help them speak up and encourage each other to perform better. Rewards and appreciation for their efforts, no matter how small can help them all feel included. Organize group workshops and training sessions to understand what motivates your employees.
To get started with how you can transform groups into teams, click here to learn more.