How to manage generational differences in the workplace

Diversity in the workplace is highly important, but managing this diversity: from a gender, religious, ethnic, political and life experience/age perspective, can be challenging! What’s “normal” or expected for one person, may be highly surprising and unorthodox for another. So how do we manage these differences in expectation, in order to maximise happiness and productivity in the workplace?

This article looks specifically at generational differences, discrepancies in age between employees, and how this may influence their working styles:

1. Communication

Your millennial employees may sprinkle emojis liberally in their emails, while your Baby Boomers end off each communication with Yours Sincerely. One group may handle a project exclusively on Slack, while another wants to hold daily meetings in the boardroom about it instead. Of course it can go even deeper than this – one person’s ‘friendly’ tone may sound disrespectful to another. In these instances, it would help to have company guidelines for communication, stipulating the best course of action for various situations, the frequency and any restrictions in terms of not emailing each other on weekends for example. That way every staff member has boundaries to work within, and to refer to when things aren’t done “their” way.

2. Skills and training

While it’s easy to slip into the mindset that younger people have all the tech knowledge and older ones need all the training, this isn’t necessarily true at all. Different generations may have specific skills they are more naturally comfortable with, such as millennials knowing the ins and outs of social media – but there is much the older generation can teach the younger ones too. A nice collaborative idea is to examine the skills within your organisation and then pair up various generations for some sort of skills sharing programme, where regular training sessions are held and knowledge disseminated.

3. Work/life balance

It’s been said many times before but younger people place a higher value on a healthy work/life balance, while many Baby Boomers may view hard work (and long hours) as the only vehicle towards career success. Millennials want to work smart, not “hard”, and this attitude could be misinterpreted by the older employee who sees them popping out at lunch time to exercise, or heading home early on a Friday while they remain at their desks. This needs to be carefully managed so that no resentment builds, and it remains the role of leadership, and the HR department, to consult their teams and set goals and clear expectations.

4. Change management

Change has become such a constant in today’s modern world, that younger people are not surprised or uncomfortable with it – in fact they expect it. This is not necessarily the case with older generations, so more care may need to be taken when dealing with them if there is a company restructure or any other large change in the organisation.

There is so much that the generations can learn from each other and as long as differences in attitudes, communication and skills are effectively managed – your business can benefit from these differences and use them to its advantage.

Provided by Fedhealth.


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