4 ways to build bridges with multiple generations in the workplace

With more than four generations in the workplace, there are discernable differences in the way each group operates. So, those in management positions or roles of influence should learn the best ways to connect and manage each generation in a way that encourages a strong sense of community. Here are four ways to better manage your team and maintain a healthy work culture.

  1. It starts with onboarding.

Onboarding is the first opportunity for new employees to get acquainted with the culture and people within the organization. While some generations typically prefer a completely remote environment, at the start, that might not always be the best option.

“Regardless of what generation you’re in, for people to build community, onboarding is critical. Onboarding, when done in person, can build chemistry and a strong bond. It helps people see how they fit on the team,” said HORNE’s Partner of Strategic Growth, Joey Havens.

Creating a sense of connection to any team is key, regardless of generation. Many teams are accustomed to digital meeting platforms such as Zoom. While these platforms have made it easier for remote work and flexibility, they are limited in their ability to create a tangible experience where team members can physically connect with others. Onboarding helps employees see the big picture – the  “why.” Once employees understand that, the impact of the generational divide lessens because everyone is working toward a similar goal.

When remote onboarding is the only option, it pays big dividends to provide a very intentional experience where opportunities also exist for some one-on-one connection. The role of the manager is even more critical to establish a personal connection and learn more about who the new team member really is and to understand how to help them connect and seek their full potential.

  1. Learning, unlearning and relearning

The world has seen exponential changes. Changes in software, changes in peoples’ values and a change in how people view work. Within a working environment, these types of changes impact each generation differently.

Younger generations pick up on certain technological advances faster, and older generations have a traditional view about the way certain projects should be completed.

But from an exponential standpoint, “Your team must learn, unlearn and relearn the software, the projects and different tasks because they change every day. You must get used to this exponential world because you’ll be doing things you haven’t done before,” Havens said.

That’s true for each generation. While some generations are digital natives, others have years of experience in roles that require certain skill sets. Skills such as effective cold calling is a powerhouse method in the sales industry, but it requires a certain nuance, level of knowledge and comfort that is gained from experience. So no matter the generation, each group must be open and willing to switch to a new way of learning.

  1. Appreciation vs. differentiation

Our demographics make up our social identity: race, gender and generation. People are naturally drawn to those from the same social identity. Because of this natural connection, “It’s easy to reinforce boundaries and feel like it’s easier to trust those in your in-group,” said Rory Tyer, director of People Solutions for HORNE Accelerate.

But focusing on your “in-group” can create division in the workplace. This is why focusing on  appreciation and differentiation is important – especially when managing different generations. Differentiation is important because recognizing each other’s differences gives you the opportunity to build a bridge instead of a wall.

“To build a bridge, you must intentionally become aware of and appreciate those with different social identities from your own,” Tyer said. “In a workplace, our generational differences should not compete; they should complement each other.”

  1. Look at the data.

Learning how to manage different generations is not always easy. Often there can be generational conflict. To truly assess and address any issues regarding generational differences, it’s helpful to “start with a clear picture of reality,” Tyer explained.

“Conduct surveys of your organization’s people, create focus groups and look at the data,” he said. “Generational conflict might be the root cause of what you’re seeing, or that could just be a symptom of something deeper like poor communication, untrained management, burnout or something else. Take a pulse of the organizational culture.”

It’s helpful to evaluate where your organization stands and if it’s healthy or unhealthy. Once that’s figured out, if there’s any culture change or intervention, “upper-level leadership should champion and embody the change moving forward,” Tyer said.

“Once there’s clear data, they need to find the best ways for their organization to change what’s not going well. Overall, the goal is to end up with a healthy culture. What you measure can be improved.”

Managing different generations is not an impossible task. In fact, it’s an opportunity for a different type of work culture – one where unique perspectives and different phases of life can have a positive impact.

If you’re looking for better ways to manage the different generations in your workplace, see how HORNE can help.

Contact us today.

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