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13 Tips For Bringing Your Multi-Generational Workforce Together

Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Forbes Source:

Modern workers are retiring later than ever, which means many workforces are comprised of three or four distinct generations. Members of each of these age groups may have their own viewpoints and work habits based on their cultural and technological experiences.

These differences have the potential to cause some miscommunication, but they don’t have to form a rift between workers. In the right company culture, every generation can share ideas with and learn from others.

1. Listen More, Speak Less

It’s important not to assume how a person will respond to a situation based on their age. When presented with an opportunity, simply ask the person how they would handle it and then be quiet. Nothing is more respectful than asking for an opinion and listening fully, pausing a bit longer than comfortable. This draws out a longer, deeper answer. Consider the answer, not the age of the person. - Janet Fouts, Tatu Digital Media

2. Promote Holistic ‘Systems Thinking’

You’re missing a leadership opportunity to reinforce a mission and core values if you fixate on task operations of individuals. Rather, elevate the dialogue to promote “systems thinking,”  a more holistic view of dependencies on each other. As a group, look at how each team impacts internal and external relationships and results. By better understanding the system, people will align to perform. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason

3. Find Common Ground

How do you really know a person? You ask. Working with different generations is working with different mindsets and cultures. Finding common ground among all the groups is a great way to begin building cohesiveness within a team. Knowing what makes a person tick or how they function allows you to know how to properly approach an employee or handle a complex situation among the groups. - Michelle Weathersby, LENS Consulting Firm

4. Set Shared Expectations For Success

It is important to engage in joint goal and objective setting. Equally as important as outlining the common priorities is determining how the various constituents will support one another’s success. This includes being clear on individual and team needs around communication, working style, etc. Teams can come together periodically to assess performance around these shared expectations. - Marvin Chambers, Built To Last Solutions, LLC

5. Let Employees Help You Bridge The Gap

Generate a sense of excitement that, as a multi-generational team, you all have the opportunity to figure out how to bridge the gap to individually and collectively tap into the differences in perspectives, experiences and skills. Remind them that each person is both a teacher and a student, and that as the leader, you still have the ultimate responsibility to make the bigger decisions. - Diane Chang, Diane Chang Coaching

6. Build A Culture Of Accountability

Define accountability. Many organizations focus on perks to attract (younger) talent, such as free food, gaming, cold brew, beer, open spaces, etc. One aspect of performance that seems to be getting lost is accountability, something that transcends generations. Focus less on generational differences and more on shared accountability, clear ownership and helping the organization succeed. - Bill Joy, The Joy Group

7. Promote Cross-Training And ‘Day In The Life’ Experiences

Having various generations represented in a company’s organizational structure is a benefit, not a liability. That said, business leaders should encourage employees to cross train and spend a “day in the life” of their counterparts to get an idea of how their job is done. Creating training experiences in an interactive manner will allow for more understanding and appreciation for others. - Lori A. Manns, Quality Media Consultant Group LLC

8. Empower Employees To Do Their Jobs

Different people, regardless of generation, have different ways of doing the same task. Trust your people to do the work and let them decide how they do it. Let the results speak for themselves. Make adjustments as necessary and let everyone learn from the experience. As a leader it is your role to let go of control. Trust and enable your team to succeed. - Larry Boyer, Success Rockets LLC

9. Become More Flexible

Gone are the days of strict guidelines around conduct, dress code and 9-to-5 office hours. Today’s workforce demands more flexibility than ever before. To engage, attract and retain a multigenerational workforce, you must be an agile organization that is willing to adapt and adjust based on the needs of your people and the demands of your business.  - Leanne Wong, True Talent Advisory

10. Foster Appreciation For Differences

Generational work styles, habits and interactions provide plenty of opportunity for tension and misalignment among colleagues. Building a culture that values different styles and gives coworkers an opportunity to articulate appreciation, rather than disdain, for their colleagues is a great way to embrace differences productively. - Molly Walsh, Standout Consulting

11. Implement Cross-Generational Mentorship Programs

Leaders can leverage multigenerational attitudes, expectations and approaches by establishing mentor programs. Each generation can learn and adapt much easier if they form a mutually respectful bond with a peer from a different generation. This includes the younger generation mentoring the older generation and vice versa. - Beverly Harvey, HarveyCareers, LLC

12. Encourage Empathy

When we understand the generational differences in the workplace and embrace them for what they are we can all work more effectively together. We are a product of our generation. Whether we grew up using a typewriter or a smartphone, we go with what we know. It is not right or wrong. We just need to understand where others are coming from and figure out the best way to integrate together. - Amy Modglin, Modglin Leadership Solutions

13. Stop Promoting Generational Gaps And Stereotypes

It’s no secret that companies employ people of multiple generations. But far too often, the gaps are defined by the positions created and the language used. Leaders need to recognize people for who they are and what they contribute, not what generation they come from. The sooner this happens, the sooner the employees will have no choice but to do the same. - Ryan Miller, Ryan James Miller

Article: ©2019 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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