Workplace Best Practices: Sidestepping the Generational Gap

Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Business Management, Hiring [ 0 Comments ]

Employee Management, Talent ManagementMultigenerational diversity is commonplace among the workforce of today. And yet many businesses see generational differences as a challenge to overcome rather than recognizing diversity as a powerful driver of innovation and productivity. Perhaps the problem is that with all these varied viewpoints, experiences and backgrounds, management and HR are failing to formulate employee recognition and rewards programs that take multigenerational differences into account – and leverage them. What follows is a list of best practices, methods and strategies businesses can utilize to sidestep the potential pitfalls of a generational gap in the workforce.

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1. Know how to communicate – When communicating with employees in a multigenerational setting, sending the message via the preferred avenue of communication can be as important as the message itself. While Boomers tend to prefer communicating by phone or face-to-face, Millennials often respond best to email and text messages. Utilizing a variety of communication avenues to reach all employees in the manner they are used to shows greater generational acknowledgement and respect on the part of management.

2. Be flexible – While rigid, one-size-fits-all approaches to teaching and training employees might have worked in the past, companies must now provide options that factor in generational differences. For example, when it comes to learning, Traditionalists are more accustomed to lectures in a classroom setting. Baby Boomers tend to prefer both lectures and workshops, and are willing to participate in small group discussions and exercises. Genexers prefer self-study, eLearning and multi-tasking, along with role-play and other experiential learning activities. Millenials gravitate toward eLearning through blogs, podcasts, wikis and mobile apps. They enjoy hands-on training and are highly collaborative. Providing learning options for all generations of employees will help them more fully develop their individual skills and abilities.

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3. Recognize management perceptions – To properly manage and motivate a multigenerational workforce, it’s important to understand each generation’s views on management. Earlier generations, such as the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers tend to be goal oriented. They view hands-on managers as micromanagers, and this turns them off. Millennials, on the other hand, who have been “helicoptered” over since birth, tend to respond to being closely monitored by managers. In terms of managerial feedback, Traditionalists hardly require it, Boomers want it well-documented, Genexers need it regularly, and Millennials prefer it frequently and on-demand.

4. Acknowledge differences – Instead of attempting to downplay or ignore generational differences, great companies acknowledge them.  Workers of all generations should be encouraged to discuss their differences in an open forum. This type of communication helps to break down generational barriers and build better and more productive relationships across the company.

5. Encourage interaction – Each generational group has its own set of skills, insights and perspectives to contribute to the business. By encouraging groups to interact in meaningful ways, the strengths of each group can be combined to achieve levels of innovation and productivity that could never be achieved individually.

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6. Be collaborative – Ideally, the designing of systems and processes within a business should be a collaborative effort among the various generations. After all, what one generational group sees as a viable solution to a problem may be totally rejected by another group. In designing new processes, the most efficient solution to the problem will present itself when all groups have weighed-in.

7. Know the makeup of each generation – In order to make the most of a multigenerational workforce, management must first know where each generation is coming from. This is not about pigeonholing. It’s about understanding what each generation of employees values and expects. Recognizing that Baby Boomers and Traditionalists are typically resistant to change, for example, can help management find ways to make needed changes less stressful. When it’s all said and done, the best way to find out the needs and expectations of any employee – regardless of what generation they identify with – is to simply ask them. Establishing this type of personal rapport between manager and employee can break down just about any barrier and bridge almost any gap.

About the Author: Jacob Kache is a freelance writer and expert in business and finances. He has received many accolades for his work in implementing programs that focus on employee appreciation.

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