Guest blog by Nicolle Germain, MBA
Look around you – the workforce has changed in recent years. Now there are as many as 4 generations of people working together at any given workplace. And, “working together” doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is successfully collaborating and capitalizing on each other’s strengths. The truth is, so many different people with distinctive backgrounds working in the same work environment can be very stressful and sometimes be the source of conflict. Each generation interacts with authority, their organization, and their colleagues in different ways, as well as has varying work and management styles.
Regardless of the generation you associate yourself with: Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y or the up and coming Millennials, here are some key pointers to help your workplace – whether you are a leader or a worker.
1) Get to know your colleagues on a personal level: This seems like a no-brainer, but it is worth a healthy reminder as we’re all likely guilty of it at some point in time. It is natural to gravitate towards people you have things in common with or are similar age to. Regardless if you’re 25 or 65, getting to know your co-workers will bring you benefit in the long-run. A friendly conversation about family or personal interests can bode well in establishing relationships and seeing each other in a different light. Spend a few extra minutes with those you don’t know well to gain some perspective on where they’re from, their background and what they know – you never know what you’ll learn.
2) Knowledge is power: More experienced employees have a wealth of knowledge that must be transferred and shared with more youthful employees. It is a shame that many people retire and walk away with vast amounts of information about an organization, and/or technical knowledge and learning related to their job that has never been shared. As a leader, it is important to establish mentorship and knowledge transfer programs that recognize the experience your senior tenured employees have, as well as offer new employees the opportunity to soak in the wealth of experience to successfully do their jobs moving forward. When there is mutual benefit for both employees, there is a greater opportunity for successful collaboration.
3) Understand each other’s motives, needs and working styles: Every person will have different reasons for choosing the career and job they have. They will also have particular motives for what they would like to get out of their work each day (i.e. money, altruism, work-life balance, experience, professional challenge etc.). Each generation and each person is different and offers diverse working styles. As a leader, personally survey your team to understand the motives each employee has and build your internal strategic direction, succession planning and the associated rewards around these employee motivations. The key here is to have effective communication strategies that encourage positive sharing within the workplace. Share the information within your office to showcase that every employee is different, may work and be motivated in varying ways, and brings diverse needs to the table.
4) Capitalize on each other’s strengths: Regardless of the generation you are associated with, every person in your office brings with them particular strengths, abilties and skills that differentiate them from their colleagues. The key for ensuring the age and generation gap does not become a major work obstacle is ensuring every employee’s strengths are effectively captialized on and shared within the group. As a leader it is important to get to know your employees and where you can nurture their abilties, support their professional growth, and harness their creativity in order to improve the workplace. Strengths should be viewed as beneficial for all concerned and not as threats to other employees.
As a leader, it will become more and more challenging to manage a diverse workplace – with generation, ethnic, gender, and many other differences becoming more prevalent. But, diversity brings opportunity and opportunity brings success. Harness your diversity and capitalize on the unique opportunities it offers your workplace.