It is not unusual nowadays to find four different generations of workforce toiling away in the maze of cubicles or in the long tables of the open office. Millennials, Gen X-ers, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists work side by side, with each group having distinct work habits, motivators and preferences. The 50 year average age gap among employees show the change in work patterns in recent years brought about by recent financial crises, making it more prudent for baby boomers to keep on working beyond retirement age.
The differences between generations are distinct and unique as the people who represent them. Milennials want a work-life balance and job-hop. Baby boomers are loyal. Gen X are entrepreneurs and are results-oriented. Traditionalists have great work ethics. This can be both a boon and a bane for managers who need to balance the generations out in order to get the most out of their workforce.
Here are 5 strategies to help everyone get along at work:
1. Educate your team and management
Train your teams and managers on the differences of generations and work styles. It’s not enough that managers learn how to deal with different generations, each employee also needs to learn how to deal with the co-workers they work with.
There are many professional seminars on dealing with different generations available today. Most companies offer such programs in-house, recognizing the value of training employees on such topics.
2. Create multigenerational teams
When new projects come up, group your teams in accordance to skill and not age, and mix it up with each new task. Everyone has something to contribute and though the work styles and experiences may be different, with a shared goal and a shared sense of responsibility, people learn to work together better. It is too easy to build a team based on age group. However, this is not maximizing and balancing the talent of your workforce.
It is also beneficial to get an idea from each team member on who do they think should be part of their team for various tasks or to achieve specific goals. Such information is useful when you are creating teams in the future.
3. Establish a Mentoring Program
Establish a formal mentoring program in your office. Pick people who want to share what they know and people who want to learn or who need a little coaching. Mentoring can go both ways, especially with multigenerational employees. A traditionalist can share his experience with a millennial. The millennial in turn can share his knowledge of technology with those not comfortable with using it. This mentoring can be done even outside the office, in a more informal setting that will suit both parties. Mentoring aims to develop the employees career-wise and personally.
4. Celebrate little victories
Celebrate team victories, no matter how small and whether work-related or not, by hosting gatherings: Lunch together as a team, grab a drink or two after work, perhaps schedule bowling or some activity that everyone in the group can participate in. People who are closer in age will normally get together for lunch or quick snack in the office. Rarely do they invite people who are not in their generation. Managers or team leaders need to take initiative on getting the team together informally. People are more relaxed and open to new things outside the office.
5. Invest in Team Building
Schedule team building exercises for your division. Team building is an effective tool in building a cohesive unit. Shared tasks and goals, establishing trust and support from your co-workers goes a long way in bridging multigenerational gaps. Team building also emphasizes differences and individual contributions of the group in achieving specific targets. It can also address personal issues between team members.
Team building is needed when there are conflicts in the office, different generations working together, and when there are many new faces in the team.
Featured photo credit: office office/anurag agnihotri via flickr.com