4 ways to bridge generation gaps

Put a group of strangers together, ask them to work side-by-side in the same building or office for eight hours each day, and you’re bound to have some conflict. Now imagine that group containing people from different generations, all with different values and views of the world, the amount of conflict can greatly multiply. So, you’ve got quite the challenge there. However, managing and motivating a diverse workforce doesn’t necessarily have to be a predicament. With the right skills, mindset and tools your managers can become the glue that keeps everyone together. So, let’s make the following tips stick(y)!

Let’s bring them all together!

1. Curb your bias

Think of all the stereotypes you every heard about a generation. Okay. Now, forget about them. Because it’s these expectations that society has created for different generations that prevents us from managing each employee fairly. Regardless of age, each employee is a unique individual with their own talents, experiences and knowledge. And they all have something to bring to the team. Only after removing that top layer of bias, clearing your mind to focus more on results instead of things like years of employments, age, level of education etc. you’ll find out which employees thrive in certain projects and which one’s struggle. This gives you, as a manager, the clues you need to suggest specific training or to create a mentoring program (something we’ll talk about in a minute!) in which the ‘experts’ can teach the ones lacking a bit behind. Because it’s not just 5 generations (Traditionalist, Baby boomer, Generation X, Millenials and Generation Z) of people working together. It could also be 5 generations of people educating each other, inspiring one another. And last but not least leveraging each other’s strengths.

2. Create a working feedback culture

A stronger company culture, greater productivity and better relationships across all generations. Isn’t that what we all wish for in our teams? Well, to realize this you first have to create an open and transparent feedback culture. In general, 85% of all people on the work floor want to develop themselves. They are open to learn new skills to become a better version of themselves. But for them to actually start working on their personal development there needs to be a clear cause. A little push to get them started. And the right feedback, at the right time could be just that incentive. By creating a continues feedback cycle in your team, instead of the more traditional year in reviews you create a constant stimulus for improvement. You not only encourage continuous feedback within your current processes, you also encourage employees to give each other feedback and make personal development a priority within the organization.

A great example of an organization who used this feedback style to their benefit is the municipality of Bladel. Read all about it in this article

3. Teamwork to close the gap

A team built out of employees from different generations means you must consider all different strengths, competences and experiences while planning certain projects or tasks. Each age has some distinct characteristics and positive professional attributes that they can provide to the team. Therefore, cross-generational teams are a great way to allow the strengths of each generation and individual to thrive. Next to that a collaboration like this can generate new ideas and ways of thinking. Which ultimately fosters the spirit of innovation. To make sure a cross-generational team will become successful the soft skills in terms of communication from all team members should be at a general level. As great communication and an open mind are basic requirements for acknowledging the valuable insights, experiences, and points of view each team member has to offer.

Another great way to close the gaps between generations are mentoring programs. Pair younger employees with seasoned executives to work together on specific business objectives. What you’ll probably notice is that both generations will share their strengths with each other. Again, trust and social intelligence are important basics to make this type of cooperation work. However, if a mentoring program becomes successful it can be the glue that keeps all generations together. Such programs allow to transfer knowledge, insights and generate innovative ideas in a great way.

4. Engage ‘em

There is no better way to engage your team, than to get them on the same page as with a common purpose. Real teamwork happens when a group of employees come together to focus on a common goal. A clear defined, shared and specific spot on the horizon to work towards. That way your employees, no matter their generation, will have a shared experience that they can only achieve while working together by using each others strengths, qualities and knowledge.

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