Leading a team in a multigenerational workforce is difficult and presents obstacles to interpersonal relationships. These challenges can take the form of different life experiences, standards and expectations, and opposing ideas of what the workplace should be like. These distinct views currently clash at an all-time high with four generations making up the workforce.
Workplace conflicts happen, but be careful not to ignore the struggles between younger and older generations. While you should treat your team members fairly, don’t ignore the generational differences since they can and will create issues if you don’t approach them.
One of the most important things you can do is to respect your team. If you respect only some individuals on the team, discontent and division are your most likely outcomes. One way to build respect is to take advantage of the range of perspectives available in your team. Each member has a useful skillset and vital job knowledge, so make good use of it. Make it a priority to build relationships between team members.
When you hire a new manager, make sure your onboarding experience is designed to help them assimilate into a leadership role quickly. If possible, use this experience to inspire them in the position. Your leaders should come into the workplace understanding how to manage each of these different groups.
Another thing to do is get away from the usual stereotypes. Millennials are more than their smartphones or their communication choices. Baby Boomers aren’t constantly at odds with their technology. Instead of relying on these indicators, find and recognize the skillsets of each person on your team.
When working with younger team members, keep in mind that they likely don’t have the same view on technology that you do. You may see many of them on their phones. Are they being unproductive? Maybe, but they could also be using that technology to get work done. Mobile technology has made it easier to multitask and get work done.
When you bring up your team’s use technology, don’t make your age difference an issue. Saying “Back in my day, we didn’t have any of these fancy gadgets” will make it harder for your team to see things your way, and emphasizing the past in regards to technology will make your team more likely to see you in the past.
When working with older team members, be demonstrative with your respect. Ask for their input in terms of experience, not age. For many Baby Boomers and Traditionalists, respect was something they earned the longer they stayed at a job. Start to think in terms of experience rather than age and you’ll get more out of your interactions with these team members.
To show that you value their knowledge, develop some processes to increase knowledge retention. Employees who have been at a job or in the workforce longer have a lot to offer, and you don’t want to lose it. Do what you can to retain that information so that when they retire it won’t be lost. When a long-term employee leaves, some of their knowledge goes with them, and Traditionalists and Baby Boomers have a lot of wisdom to offer.
This may seem like a lot of work, but a cohesive multigenerational team will make your investment in them all worthwhile. Just make sure that your expectations are clear, and meet with each team member to keep on track. With a variety of opinions, ideas, viewpoints, and skills, your team members can tackle challenges and obstacles that a less functional team would find daunting.