One of the challenges we often hear from small business leaders is how to engage workers of all generations, from the recently graduated Gen Z all the way to the nearing retirement Baby Boomers. With such large age gaps in the workforce, it is easy to see how conflicts with priorities, behaviors and expectations can cause tension on your team. A recent article from Inc. gives two ways employers can encourage employees from every generation to work together.
Find a common purpose
For some reason, it is a common belief that only younger workers care about the purpose of the work they are doing. It is true that the shift of focus on purpose began as Millennials entered the workforce, but now more than ever, employees across all generations want to know that the work they are doing is making a difference. In fact, according to the LinkedIn Purpose at Work 2016 Global Report, 48% of baby Boomers are purpose-oriented while only 30% of Millennials are purpose-orientated. No matter the generation there is no denying that tying an employee’s daily work with a larger company and community purpose helps increase employee satisfaction, engagement and performance.
Think beyond mentorship
You will often see the recommendation that companies should institute multi-generational mentorship programs, where younger workers help older worker with areas where they excel such as technology and older workers share their experience and knowledge with younger workers. But traditional mentorship isn’t for everyone. In fact, employees may bristle at the mention of mentoring if they had a previous bad experience. Instead, consider projects where younger workers and older workers can work together, with equal tasks on each side that are required for success. This process is less about teaching one another and more about working together to see a project succeed. Not everyone likes the mentoring relationship, but most people are a happy to work collaboratively toward a common goal. Simply working side by side with employees of another generation will encourage a transfer of knowledge and perhaps a new perspective.
The key to having a successful multigenerational workforce lies in focusing on the similarities between the generations rather than highlighting the differences. Work to remove language from your organization that perpetuates unfair stereotypes of any generation. Redirect that attention to what makes your employees alike rather than different.
Looking for more ways to improve your multi-generational workforce? Check out our Generational Management Toolkit with some activities that may be helpful for bringing your team together.