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How To Manage Generational Differences In The Workplace

How To Manage Generational Differences In The Workplace

The workplace is changing, not just because more people are working from home or because more companies are incorporating flexible scheduling. The workplace is experiencing a dramatic generational shift; while the older generations have begun retiring, Generation Z (Gen Z) has entered the arena.

Each generation brings its own unique set of values and expectations to the office. While this can be great news for you as an employer who needs skilled workers to bring their individual points of view to their work, it can also create friction between generations working side-by-side. Here are some ways to address those differences to keep everyone happy – and productive!

Generations In The Workforce

With the addition of Gen Z, there are now five generations working alongside each other: 

  • Silent Generation (Born 1925-1945)
  • Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964)
  • Generation X (Born 1965-1979)
  • Millennials (Born 1980-1994)
  • Generation Z (Born 1995-2012)

While there isn’t a clear distinction between an individual born in 1979 and someone born in 1981, these dates are largely accepted as generational groups. Additionally, there are subgroups within each generation, but we recommend focusing on the main five groups for management purposes.

Recognize And Acknowledge Differences

With a diversified workforce, it's essential for you and your employees to accept and accredit that there will be differences among the team. Open communication, training, and mentoring are great places to start. For example, you can hold workshops to teach employees about generational differences and how to work effectively with colleagues from different age groups. You can also pair younger and older employees in mentoring relationships to facilitate knowledge-sharing and collaboration.

There is no need to shy away from the dissimilarities; however, this doesn't mean reinforcing stereotypes. You must take the time to educate your team about the generational differences in the workplace and encourage them to be open-minded about others' views and values.

Acknowledging potentially contrasting ideas and opinions creates a more inclusive and welcoming work environment that embraces unique perspectives and values. By opening the conversation and respecting differences, you can foster a culture of inclusivity, collaboration, and understanding that allows each person's unique qualities and skills to thrive.

Be Aware Of Communication Styles And Preferences 

Miscommunications and misunderstandings can be significant causes of conflict, which is why you and your employees need to be open and transparent about communication preferences.

While Baby Boomers may prefer face-to-face meetings and phone calls as their main form of communication, Millennials tend to lean towards instant messaging platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Slack because it's easier and faster for non-urgent tasks. Gen Xers find themselves somewhere in the middle, often using email as their primary form of communication with coworkers, but still value face time.

A potential issue could ensue between Baby Boomers, who contact via phone calls, and Gen Zers, who vehemently avoid phone calls unless absolutely necessary if groups don't communicate their preferences.

Be flexible and open-minded. Encourage your team to try and understand where other generations are coming from, even if it’s difficult to relate. Remember that everyone has different experiences, which can affect how they see things. For example, an older generation may have a different view than someone who grew up in the digital age.

Adjust Your Expectations And Your Management Style

When managing generational differences in the workplace, it's important not to make assumptions. For example, while we’ve been referencing general characteristics and preferences of the different generations, don't assume that all people from the same era are the same. But at the same time, don’t assume different ages won’t get along either. If you do this, you'll miss out on valuable opportunities for collaboration and cooperation between different generations at work.

In fact, there may be more similarities between these two employees than differences after all; for example, two coworkers born decades apart may spend their evenings encapsulated in the latest docuseries streaming on Netflix. Another may be on the local co-ed soccer team that their older counterpart was a part of years earlier.

In addition to adjusting your expectations, adapting your management style is essential. For example, younger workers may appreciate more frequent feedback and freedom in their work environment. On the other hand, older workers may value more structure in their day-to-day activities.

At the end of the day, your employees are individuals, and your management style should reflect that. It’s crucial you come into each workday with an open outlook, and your employees will do the same.

Update Your Training Program

The most effective training programs focus on the skills and abilities of each generation. You can still use some general training methods across all ages, but it's necessary to recognize that different generations have different needs when it comes to learning new information as well as retaining and applying it on the job. Just as people have communication preferences, they also learn differently. Onboarding sets your expectations for employees, which is why your training program is a great place to educate your team on generational differences.

The best way to ensure that you're building your training programs correctly is by understanding what makes each generation unique. For example, Boomers didn’t grow up surrounded by technology, so they may need extra time for practice and review sessions before implementing a new software process into their daily routine. Gen Xers enjoy structure in their work environments, so clear guidance is provided upfront about expectations during this process, such as, "We expect these results within Y timeframe."

Gen Zers are more likely to learn by doing; therefore, you can offer hands-on learning opportunities, such as walking through a process together. Also, provide a clear path for feedback and communication throughout the training program.

Recognizing and adapting to an individual's learning style will lead to a practical outcome that'll have long-lasting impacts on your work culture.

Offer Flexible Solutions

The overarching key to managing generational differences in the workplace is flexibility. Each generation has its own unique set of needs, so it's paramount you understand these differences and find ways to meet them. For example, you can offer flexible scheduling options if your younger workers are used to working remotely or at different hours.

Flexible work arrangements accommodate living differences between all generations, such as school drop-off/pickup times versus evening activities with friends, which benefit your entire workforce.

Comprehensive work benefits show you care about everyone's interests and help you attract and retain a diverse workforce. Also, consider adopting inclusive benefits that benefit multiple generations differently. While not exclusively geared to one age, parental leave may not matter to older generations, but career development and promotion opportunities do.

Generational Differences Are An Opportunity 

The workforce shifts daily, with new employees bringing a flood of new ideas and opinions. While the new skills pose an excellent opportunity for your business, if you’re not careful, generational differences can cause friction in the workplace. But when approached strategically, a diverse team can foster a welcoming culture and greatly benefit your business.

However, employee training and workplace management aren’t necessarily simple HR functions and can take you away from other integral business responsibilities. By partnering with GMS, we give you access to the tools and resources you need to take on these tasks while providing specific guidance on hiring and training for your business. Our Applicant Tracking System and employee training software streamline the hiring process to efficiently and effectively recruit top talent.

We help with all the administrative tasks that take away your valuable time so your business can run smoothly. Contact us to speak to one of our experts today!

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