Today’s workplace is more diverse than ever before. Not only do we work alongside those of different cultures and backgrounds, we also work with people who are from very different age groups. This presents a challenge for the management team to have a strategy that is flexible, creative, and communicative when it comes to managing their teams.
According to statistics provided by the Canadian government, 67% of its population was of working age in 2016. This is the largest percentage of working age people in all of the eight major industrialized nations. Working age refers to those between 15 years and 64 years. Due to such a large age span, a workplace might contain four different generations at once:
- Generation Z (those under 18)
- Generation Y/Millennials (18-33 years)
- Generation X (34-50 years)
- Baby Boomers (51-70 years)
With different generations comes different perspectives, work ethics, and opinions. Technology has become a divider, and an important one at that, as we move more and more into the digital world. While the younger employees grew up with technology and are already tech-savvy, many of those in the older generations are generally less receptive to new technology.
This can cause implementing new technologies to be a headache. While technological advances are made at an exponential rate and there’s no denying the benefits it offers, the challenge is gaining the buy-in from the whole team. It is critical to find ways to introduce, train, and implement these changes across all generations in a way that appeals to the tech-savvy cohort as well as their more experienced counterpart.
Workplaces and managers who succeed in implementing technological change to their teams and processes follow the same basic principles. Outlined below are our five best practices for leading a multigenerational workforce.
1. Be Flexible, Tailor Your Approach
Each generation brings a different viewpoint and work-ethic to the workplace. Growing up in the 1950’s or 60’s was a much different experience than those raised in the 80’s and 90’s. Be aware and sensitive to these differences. Be flexible in presenting change and in training methods. What works for the Millennials probably won’t work for the Baby Boomers. If you have an outside provider that is training your employees, make them aware of the different generations in your workplace and ask them to tailor their methods for each one. While this is more work, the results are undeniably much better than a one-size-fits-all approach.
2. Promote Peer Learning & Mentoring
When you know which of your team members are tech-savvy and will pick up the new technology easily, encourage them to help those who struggle. Giving them the opportunity to learn from each other promotes communication and respect between the generations. This is a great way to promote team building and foster a collaborative environment. When everyone feels valued, involved, and is working towards the same goal, employee morale and productivity improves.
3. Share Your Reasons…
People and organizations resist change for a variety of reasons. We naturally become accustomed to doing things a certain way and see no reason to change if it’s working. However, while a process might have worked five or even three years ago, it might not be the best way today. Be open and communicate with them. Let them know you are not criticizing their work and the reasons why things are changing. Be upfront that the first few steps towards change is daunting, but they will not be alone in the challenge. Most importantly, explain how those changes will benefit them. Once they realize that it will make their job easier and reduce stress, they will be open to exploring the possibilities that you’re proposing.
4. …And Listen Too
Even when you’ve successfully introduced new technology into your organization, that’s not where the work ends. Encourage your staff to offer honest feedback. How do they feel about the changes? What do they like and what needs to be improved? What would make the change even better? ? This allows you to be aware of how your team is adapting to the change and if that change is producing the intended benefits. Above all, if the change isn’t working, you need to be willing to “change the change”.
While leading a multigenerational workforce comes with many challenges, it also offers long-term rewards. These include:
- Innovation – Focusing and using each others’ strengths, leading to higher creativity and innovation.
- Retention and Attraction – Everyone feels valued, morale is high, and everyone is willing to work together to move the organization forward as a team. They also attract new employees because the current ones promote it as a good place to work.
- Agility Towards Change – While change can take various forms, the approach to communicating effectively with your team would more-or-less be the same. Once you’ve figured out what works with your team, implementing other types of changes will also be easier in the future, making your job a lot easier.
Related Resources: Find out how you can master change like a R.O.C.K.S.T.A.R
Help each generation embrace change by knowing their strengths and weaknesses, then tailor training and implementation to their needs. Foster respect, peer learning, open communication, and collaboration within different groups. A multigenerational team can be very rewarding.