If you read this blog regularly, you know that for the first time in history, employees spanning five generations now work side-by-side in the same office, from the pre-Boomer Silent Generation to the post-Millennial Gen Z. This inter-generational mashup can lead to myriad misunderstandings and miscommunications—but if harnessed and channeled correctly, your workers' age diversity can be one of your company's greatest assets, and can lead to creativity, innovation and growth.
Here are four key ways to help employees from a cross-section of age-perspectives work together seamlessly and successfully:
Understand your employees' generation-based preferences and needs. Take a detailed (and regularly updated) account of who your employees are, and where they're coming from. Many employees don't neatly fit their age demographic, so take account of that too. [This point was not meant to be self-serving, but JDMA offers a quick survey that employees take to gauge their level of job satisfaction. It takes just 5 minutes to complete and provides the results based on generation, so companies can clearly see preferences and bridge the generational divide.]
Create avenues for inter-generational collaboration. Richard Branson's company the Virgin Group is very adept at it. The more solid opportunities you put out there for your employees of different generations to interact—both in the office and at offsite settings—the more cohesive and harmonious your workplace will be.
Establish cross-group mentoring opportunities. Mentoring is of course one of the best ways for employees of different generations to work together and share knowledge, AND reverse mentoring is a proven way to successfully encourage collaboration (point #2).
Be mindful of life paths. It goes without saying that a young adult just out of college will have different job expectations than an older executive nearing retirement—so wherever possible, you should adjust your generational expectations too. Tailor training programs and incentive plans to best inspire and reward different segments of the age spectrum.