Managing generational differences in your business is a crucial area to be aware of as a leader. Within the next four years, it is expected that the two youngest generations, Gen’s Y and Z, will make up 70% of the workforce. Such a shift is sure to cause disruptions across all industries. For those in managerial positions, it is essential to understand why generational conflicts arise, how to solve them and most importantly how to prevent them occurring.
Encourage Teamwork and Shared Values
When people realise they are working towards a common goal, it can help distract from any personality clashes that might get in the way. Realising and affirming that everybody wants to be successful is excellent for growing respect amongst employees of varying ages.
Values occur outside of age and can be a great way to align generations. Use teamwork as a chance to develop shared values. By pairing young and old employees together, they may discover that they are not as dissimilar as first thought. Encourage your company’s values to relate to the way people work, and you will begin to see mutual respect develop between age groups.
Values common to each generation include:
Attitudes Towards Technology
We all know that technology has a vital role in the modern workplace. While learning to navigate new software and platforms may seem daunting for older generations, younger ones will take to technology like a duck to water.
Older generations can become frustrated that their industry experience may not be recognised when doing digital-based tasks. Astute bosses will be quick to see this as a personal development opportunity by making young employees available for tech advice. In turn, spending time with older employees will allow younger generations to observe skills that only years of industry experience can forge.
Remove Generational Stereotypes
Stereotyping is a common interpersonal mistake in the 21st century. It is important to acknowledge and realise stereotypes exist and immediately seek to dissolve them. Stereotypes can create a disruptive atmosphere in business, making it pertinent to address these as misunderstandings rather than set-in-stone behaviours.
To identify generational misunderstandings within your workplace, designate a time at the start of each year for team building exercises. While not all colleagues will become best friends, do what you can to build mutual respect and understanding between everyone. Community activities that take generations out of the workplace such as Clean Up Australia Day and Relay for Life are great for instilling a common goal. A team that sees each person as an individual, rather than a stereotype is a team far more likely to succeed.
Set Clear Expectations for all Generations
History has proven that with each new generation comes a fresh and exciting approach to work. Baby-boomers are often viewed as workaholics, working long hours to achieve their absolute best. Millennials have adopted a different approach, aiming to work smarter, not harder to maximise the amount they can achieve while maintaining a healthy work/life balance. While all nuances have their merits, it is important to ensure that each approach does not have negative repercussions on the other. If a studious baby-boomer sees a millennial constantly leaving work early, there is a chance for resentment to arise. By setting clear expectations regarding; working hours, workplace behaviour and deadlines you will minimise conflicts of this nature.
Managing generational differences can be difficult to navigate in your business, and can too often be the cause of conflict and angst between co-workers. For those in managerial positions, using inter-generational differences for team upskilling can create harmony between generations. By making mindful changes to the way your workplace operates, each generation will be working together with ease.