This article was originally published in the 2018 Spring Pulse – The Pulse is a mutual insurance industry publication that aims to help companies understand emerging issues. Articles in the Pulse offer advice on how to grow and protect businesses. The impact of the Pulse reaches throughout the Mid-Atlantic states through readers from of PAMIC’s many member companies.
For the first time, it’s not uncommon to have employees spanning five generations in the same workplace. This diversity brings a wide range of ideas, knowledge, skills, and perspectives to the table that can be an advantage for your organization. However, it could also present challenges: how do you motivate and meet the needs of an age-diverse workforce? First; welcome it, embrace it, and check out these tips for managing your multi-generational workforce efficiently and effectively!
Tailor your training style. Different generations may prefer different methods of training. While Generation X and Millennials generally prefer to learn independently through digital platforms such as computer-based training, baby boomers and veterans tend to prefer more traditional classroom-style training on paper. In order for new hires to have a smooth transition into your company, consider adjusting your onboarding training to match the ways they learn best, rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach.
Integrate collaboration. Bridge the gap between age groups by encouraging integrational collaboration. Often, the root of conflict between different generations stems from misunderstandings in communication and issues of perception. Providing opportunities for employees of all ages to work together and learn from each other will create a sense of comradery among coworkers and break down some of those walls. This can be accomplished by creating age-diverse teams within the company; don’t be afraid to put a Millennial and a Baby Boomer in the same group—you’ll get fresh ideas and perspectives on a project that is touched by people of all different ages.
Provide opportunities for team bonding. There’s bound to be a natural separation between generations in the office; interests, hobbies, and priorities tend to change as we get older. Schedule regular team building exercises so your staff can get to know each other and find common ground. Consider activities that people of any age will enjoy, such as an out-of-office lunch, game night, or company potluck.
Create committees. Encourage everyone to embrace the interests they share rather than focusing on those that divide them. Start a book club, culture committee, or party planning committee. Whoever shares those skills or interests, no matter their age, will work together on something they love and form a bond over those similarities. Recognize these strengths and cool interests that your employees possess publicly! If a Boomer has great institutional knowledge that helped land a huge contract, thank them for working with the group to ensure success. If a Millennial thinks of an exciting new way to express company culture, acknowledge their contribution to the workplace environment.
Be flexible. Allow your employees to work in a way that is best for their own productivity. Younger generations typically desire a more flexible schedule; a study found 77 percent of Millennials believe having flexible work hours will increase their productivity in the workplace. On the other hand, generations such as the Baby Boomers that have already been in the workforce for years may prefer the familiar 9-5. Giving your staff some freedom will create trust that forms a bond where workers are more committed and passionate about the work they do.
Have options in the office. You don’t have to choose one office style that everyone must conform to. Who says you can’t have both collaborative areas and private offices? Have a balance of open spaces, private areas, traditional desks, and alternative work spaces such as comfy bean bag chairs or stand-up desks. Providing options will allow your employees to decide which atmosphere and working space will be best for their own productivity. This can apply to both in-office and remote work spaces.
Every organization aims to provide each employee with an engaging and productive work environment. Because each generation grew up differently and dealt with varying parenting skills, world issues, and work environments, they are bound to be different. If we can make small tweaks to accommodate each generation that occupies our workforce, we can foster an inclusive culture that puts all employees on the same playing field, regardless of age.