Unleash the potential of a multigenerational workforce
It is common for today’s workplace to be filled with employees from different generations and backgrounds.The first thing that comes to a manager’s mind would probably be, “How am I going to cater to the varying needs and get them to work effectively together?” It is indeed a tough question to solve.
They possess different skill sets and may seem less relevant to one another. One generation may view their abilities as the key ingredient to success while the other might think otherwise. Can these skills come together and complement each other instead?
Assumptions are made all the time. It’s easy to hear comments such as, “he’s too young. He doesn’t know how to do it the right way” or “He’s so old school. He doesn’t keep up with times”. Is that really the truth or is it a mere misconception and trap that we often fall into?
The difference in generation is similar to a difference in culture.It simply means that people behave differently when facing a similar situation. There is no definite right or wrong, it’s just how we perceive and value things. Is your way more effective than mine? Maybe. But will that always be the case, maybe not. Perspectives provide the team with a more holistic view of tackling issues. It helps the team to pre-empt potential problems and devise alternative approaches. By harnessing the power of diversity, it provides teams with a powerful tool on hand to handle issues that are complicated and multi-faceted. After all, you only know what you know and will only be able to go beyond that limit if you learn from others.
How can we then harness the strengths of each generation and unleash the true potential to deliver great value to the organization?
1) Bridge the gap by promoting open communication platform
Have you faced a situation where you assumed something only to realize that wasn’t actually the case after understanding where the other party was coming from? Communication is a key tool when fostering greater understanding and bridging the gap between differences. There is a need to build open communication platforms such as open dialogues sessions and focus groups to provide opportunities for employees to engage one another and in turn, learn more about where the other party is coming from.Through such open and authentic exchange, staff will feel more connected and have a better shot at ironing out their differences.
2) Find a common link between the different groups and get them to work together
Despite the differences between generations, commonalities still exist whether it’s the type of work, certain interests or even a shared goal. Creating a common ground between them is key to bring everyone together with a shared focus. This way, the emphasis will not be on the differences that they have but rather, the different approaches that could be adopted to achieve a target that has been set for the team. This will form the backbone of the team whichblurs the generational line. This common thread is key to hold the team as one and sharpen their focus when heading towards the desired goal.
3) Value their respective strengths
Each generation of workers bring forth different valuei.e. they possess different strengths that can be tapped on. For example, a more seasoned veteran will likely have better knowledge of a product and knows what works and what doesn’t with his wealth of experience.On the other hand, a younger individual will likely be more in touch with the latest technological developments and trends that are crucial in helping the organization move ahead. It is thus key to appreciate and value the respective strengths that each individual can present. By leveraging on the respective strengths, the team will then reap the true benefit of a synergized effort derived from a combination of assets on hand.
4) Recognize contributions
With the fast changing environment, it means that the type of skill sets required changes as well. This may mean that certain individuals will appear less valuable than others due to the circumstance involved. However, it is important to recognize that it doesn’t always mean that such individuals are definitely made obsolete. It may just be a matter of timing or just mean that this is a less emphasized requirement at this moment. To help motivate the team and get them to continue contributing, managers need to recognize the contributions of all members regardless if it is in a small or big way. In particular for those who are contributing in a smaller way, let them know how their small contributions are part of the bigger picture and without which, the team will not be able to achieve what it has set out to do. It’s almost impossible to have equal contribution from every single member, let alone members with different skill sets from different generations. But what you can do, is to ensure their contributions are acknowledged and let them know that everyone is playing a part in the team’s success.
5) Understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution: you need to tailor initiatives to help different groups thrive while serving an overarching objective
Before expecting each individual to thrive and contribute in their respective domain of work, managers need to do their part by ensuring that resources are provided and that the environment created is optimum to accommodate the diversity which the team holds. With that said, managers must first recognize that there is no simple way out by providing a one-size-fits-all solution and expecting everything to click from there. Setting the stage is an essential ingredient for managers to include into the work environment in order to maximize the potential of the team. Start by understanding what each member needs and then know how you can best engage them to maximize their individual potential.
Managing a multi-generational workforce may appear to be daunting task. However, the potential that could be tapped on far outweighs the challenges that have to be overcome. Recognizing and acknowledging that each generation of workers has their respective value and how they can contribute to the success of the team is critical. Bring people from different background and abilities together, harness them, and expect great things to happen.