Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace – Part II

Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace – Part II

November 16, 2022
Shari Steinbach
Human Resources

By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor

As we discussed in last week’s article, each generation has been defined by life experiences that have shaped their different values and work habits. For someone who is trying to manage a diverse set of employees who range in age from the 20s to 60s this can present quite a challenge. Here are five tips for successfully managing these generational differences.

  1. Understand and embrace differences.  It is important not to stereotype each generation but recognize that key differences do exist. Educate yourself on how age factors into one’s work personality and then you can change your communication approach as needed. What motivates a 26-year-old, for example, may be vastly different from how you may motivate a 50-year-old.  While younger workers may prefer to communicate via email, instant messenger or texts, for instance, older generations value phone conversations or face-to-face interactions.
  2. Foster education and clear expectations.  It is helpful to educate all employees on generational differences so each team member has an understanding and appreciation for age diversity. Use this educational opportunity to also establish expectations for how they should interact with one another. Explain how you will enforce teamwork rules and where to go for support if issues arise to help avoid interpersonal conflict, ageism, and any confusion.
  3. Create multi-generational teams.  Include a blend of age ranges on work teams so each generation can bring its unique perspective and skillset to projects. Having teams made of up different ages provides an environment where older employees can share their decades of experience with younger workers, which offers a deeper understanding and appreciation of corporate operations. Equally, younger team members can provide helpful guidance and insights regarding the latest technologies and strategies. These diverse teams help everyone feel supported and valued while also spurring increased collaboration and innovation.
  4. Promote age inclusivity.  Make inclusivity a priority so all employees feel valued and appreciated. Ensure team-building events are accessible to all ages and abilities, not only the younger members of your staff. Let prospective employees, vendors and customers know that you embrace generational diversity in the workplace by using age-inclusive images in corporate communications and advertising. Focus on skills and abilities, rather than years of experience, when hiring. When an issue arises or you are looking for internal insights, get comments from different age groups to further show you value all perspectives.
  5. Provide everyone an opportunity for growth.  Give all employees the opportunity to work on projects outside of their current role to enable them to learn more skills that will benefit their position and team. Budget for skill growth as well. When discussing career paths and personal work goals, map out those skills employees will need to stay relevant and successful while growing their careers. Provide the resources to acquire those skills for all age groups.