As discussed in last week’s blog, our November theme is the multi-generational workforce.
This unique mix of demographics seems to present just as many advantages as it does pitfalls. Each generation brings a different perspective to the table, but their differing opinions, expectations, and communications styles can lead to conflict. So how do you manage such a diverse group?
While each generation generally observes their own set of values, it’s important not to go overboard with generalizations. Every person is different and may not fall squarely into their generational labels. You may have older employees who love technology and instant messaging, just as you may have young employees who love physical copies and face-to-face conversations. So while it’s a great idea to read up on the profiles of each generation, understand that these are broad brush strokes. The best method of management is always to know who your employees are and what needs they have. Maybe even monitor yourself for any negative stereotypes you may be holding about other generations.
One of the major pitfalls of having a diverse workforce is all the misunderstandings and miscommunications that occur. Older and younger employees may see each other in completely different ways. For instance, younger employees may feel energized and excited to begin working and bring their fresh ideas to the table, whereas older employees may just see an overeager “kid” who wants to upset the norm without knowing enough first. Likewise, younger employees may see older employees as out-of-touch and using outdated methods of operation. Encourage respect among the group by highlighting your powerful diversity and the opportunities to learn from one another. Gather everyone together for occasional informal chit-chats or other teambuilding events to foster better trust and communication. You can also establish mentorship programs between your older and younger employees. Mentorships are a fantastic idea because they A) satisfy the older employee’s desire to be valued for their time and experience, and B) satisfy the younger employee’s desire to develop their skills and move up the ranks. However, it is important to note that mentoring is a skill, so make sure your employees are up to the task before pairing them with someone.
When putting together your benefits packages, take note of the different life stages your employees are at. Typically, younger employees prefer tuition reimbursement, student debt assistance, and formal training opportunities. Slightly older employees who might be married, have kids, and have recently purchased a house may prefer mortgage services, family healthcare plans, stock options, onsite daycare, monetary gifts, and career development programs. Your oldest employees are most likely thinking about retirement, so retirement planning services and a 401k match are great benefits to offer. Healthcare benefits are always important, no matter how old an employee is, as well as flexible working conditions. Flexibility is a huge benefit for employees who have school, a second job, family members to take care of, upcoming retirement, or who simply want to attain a good work-life balance.
Technology is ever-changing, so it’s important to recognize that different generations feel comfortable connecting in different ways. Oftentimes younger jobseekers will check out a company’s online profile before applying. Make sure that your social media presence is up-to-date and that you have ways to apply online. Many offices will also outright ban access to social media sites – but they’re a huge resource for younger generations. Consider lifting your office ban to keep this line of communication open. Email, paper, and face-to-face communication are generally preferred by older folks, so keep these going, but investing in an office-wide instant messaging software is a great idea to keep younger employees engaged and communicating. By keeping multiple lines of communication open, everyone can use what’s most comfortable to them and no one is excluded.
Though each generation is unique in their values and modus-operandi, there are far more similarities than differences between them. Everyone wants to achieve, build better lives, be fulfilled by their work, and feel valued for the work they do. By ensuring that everyone is communicating effectively, being respected, and considered in company decisions, all 5 generations can work in powerful harmony.
Aubrey Dion is proud to be back working for the family business she grew up in. Over the years, she has performed a wide variety of jobs in both the office and factory, becoming a true "jack of all trades." Aubrey credits her quick learning ability to her strong theatre background, where memorization and attention to detail are vital. Working in the marketing department allows her to stay creative and work on exciting new projects for the company.