How to Engage with a Multigenerational Workforce
July 12, 2022
The modern-day workspace is a highly diverse one, with up to four different generations working side-by-side. While Millennials (born 1981 to1996) will soon become the largest portion of the U.S. workforce, you can still find plenty of Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers in the office. Gen-Zers (those born in 1996 or later) are also beginning to enter the workforce in increasing numbers.
For many business owners and managers, finding a way to engage these workers from different age brackets can be challenging. Each one tends to vary wildly in skillsets, motivations, attitudes, and expectations towards work, making a one-size-fits-all managerial approach almost impossible.
Fortunately, there are ways you can work around these challenges and develop a highly engaged, motivated, and efficient workforce that will help you stay competitive. Below are five tips that you can apply in your own workspace to help you achieve that.
Accept Each Person’s Individuality
Each generation tends to come with its own stereotypes. For instance, Baby Boomers are usually resistant to change and always looking for big wins. Gen-Xers tend to be fiercely independent with a self-starter mindset. Millennials are restless with a strong desire for change and new experiences. Gen-Zers are highly technology-dependent and cautious about the future. You might be tempted to approach each generation with these stereotypes in mind, but that can end up being detrimental to your organization in the long run.
The truth is that we are all more than just our stereotypes. Just because someone is a Baby Boomer doesn’t necessarily mean they are always resistant to change. Some Gen-Zers might be more inclined to pick up a book rather than their smartphone. The point is that we are all individuals and any attempt to fit each generation into a neat little box can be counterproductive. Instead, managers should focus on each worker’s individual preferences, values, and needs. Get to know them and create a work environment that accepts each person’s individuality.
Develop an Agile Work Culture
In the past, most workplace cultures tended to be very hierarchical with complex tiers and advancement ladders that left many workers feeling boxed in and undervalued. That’s undergoing a lot of change now as many businesses adapt to a new working environment that encourages cross-level collaboration and the free flow of ideas. Office space designs are also shifting from traditional cubicles to a more open-plan design where workers are encouraged to interact with one another.
Embrace these changes towards a more fluid and agile work culture as they can help you engage more effectively with your multigenerational workforce. Both new and old employees should be given a chance to pick up new skills that align with their interests. Senior-level employees should be approachable and take regular trips to see how things are going in each department.
Implement a Reverse-Mentoring Program
Most businesses will have a mentoring program—official or unofficial—in which new employees are paired with older, more experienced professionals that can pass their knowledge down to the new arrivals. This kind of system still has its uses, but there may also be a need for a reverse-mentoring program.
The rapid rise in the use of technology over the last few years has created a skills gap for older employees that struggle with these new technologies. You can solve this by pairing younger, more tech-savvy employees with older employees that are eager to pick up these skills but don’t know where to start.
Not only does this help solve the technology gap, but it also gives each generation a chance to learn from the other. It’s a two-for-one deal that also encourages collaboration, communication, and teamwork.
Tread Carefully with New Technology
The pace of change in today’s business environment is truly breathtaking. It often feels like almost no time has passed between the introduction of a new piece of technology and its replacement by a newer, purportedly better piece of tech. With that in mind, you should be wary about introducing the latest whiz-bang technology as soon as it comes out. Take time to consider whether you really need this technology and whether it will make things easier or more complicated.
For every new technology you introduce you need to think about training and integration. While new technologies can increase efficiency, remember that most efficiency comes down to your people and culture. By focusing on your people and looking for technologies that can make their day-to-day lives easier, you can avoid technology upgrades that only hinder their performance.
Communicate Your Organization’s Purpose
A multigenerational workforce will have a wide variety of values and visions for your organization and their place within it. Trying to engage them through vision or value statements may not click with enough of your employees to make the effort worth it. Instead, focus on communicating your organization’s purpose, the reason it exists.
Employees from different backgrounds and age groups can engage with a simple and straightforward purpose statement. Explain where your organization is heading, how it’s performing, and how each department plays its part in that mission. By being more transparent and concrete about what your organization does and how it does it, you can keep your employees more motivated.
Effectively engaging with four different generational groups is no easy task. But by following the tips above, you can make it work. A more engaged workforce is one that will give your organization a chance to grow.