Diversity and inclusion are the name of the game – in more ways than you’d think.
With global life expectancy now double what it was a hundred years ago, the age span of people in the workplace continues to widen, especially with Generation Z entering the workplace for the first time. This means that we’re seeing a cross-generational work environment that spans more generations than ever before.
The five generations currently in the workplace are:
Each subset brings its own set of expectations, experiences, and values to the workplace. Naturally, these can differ according to the individual. However, there’s no denying that as each generation has entered the workplace at different times, they’ve been faced with different obstacles and environments to navigate.
Creating an inclusive and meaningful employee experience from the start to the end of the individual’s work cycle is hugely important since making the effort to include everyone will create a better working environment for all.
A diverse, multi-generational workforce can also be your secret weapon. Having a multitude of experiences and perspectives might seem intimidating or complicated at first. But said experiences and perspectives can actually offer you a treasure trove of problem-solving abilities and insights.
Essentially, the more diverse the opinions are, the better. But harnessing these strengths and turning them into your superpower is not as simple as hiring an age-diverse team and letting everyone get on with it.
You need to pay attention and take time to build up and work with your multi-generational employees to create a cohesive team. So how can you go about doing this?
Here, we take a look at how to foster an inclusive multi-generational work environment. In this guide, we’ll run through three best practices, including:
Each section will take a deeper dive into what is necessary to bring out the best in your employees. Using this three-strand approach, you can create an inclusive multi-generational employee experience that will help your company stand out for all the right reasons.
When discussing the reality of multi-generational employees, it’s easy to generalize and divide each group based on stereotypes.
But while there are some shared values and experiences within each subgroup, at the end of the day, you’re still dealing with individuals. Making use of broad assumptions can be useful but take the time to learn about the individual.
Poor or misunderstood communication can fell the best of businesses, so it’s important to start here.
On an individual level, how does your employee like to communicate? Younger employees might feel more comfortable with intimate, face-to-face debriefs, such as huddle room video conferencing. Meanwhile, for the older generation, an email might suffice in the majority of cases.
On a company level, are emojis commonly enjoyed and slang universally understood? Is everyone on board with the various acronyms that have cropped up over time?
If you’re not sure, obtain feedback from your employees. Learn how they like to communicate and adjust your style as necessary. You could even set up an automated survey using ChartHop’s surveys and feedback that gauges their response every few months.
One of the keys to understanding your employees is learning about what motivates them. Similar to communication, this may fit into some broad generational strokes.
For example, your recent Gen Z hire may prize flexibility above all else, as remote work allows them to travel, see friends, and work from different locations. That said, they might not have perfected remote worker etiquette quite yet, so be sure to offer support and guidance in these cases.
Conversely, for someone who entered the workplace during the recession, job security might be of paramount importance. What’s more, to cross generational divides, how a company supports working parents will be of interest to anyone who has children.
Once you’ve connected with your employees and understand what makes them tick, it’s time to zoom out.
Putting in some effort to make the company itself inclusive of multi-generational needs and wants is a crucial step in providing a cohesive, supportive experience for all employees. This can look like challenging stereotypes, offering flexible benefits, and respecting boundaries.
As mentioned, it’s important to understand and navigate the different attributes of each generation and to remain sensitive to them. But at the same time, it’s important not to perpetuate stereotypes about each age group.
For example, don’t immediately assume that your middle-aged employees won’t know how a new app works. You may even have some Generation Z workers on your team who need more training than anyone. Essentially, be aware of generational differences, but don’t be led by them.
You should also be aware of internal bias, especially when it comes to recruitment. If someone’s date of birth causes an internal reaction, organize a screening process to hide candidates’ ages to prevent any conscious or unconscious biases.
So you’ve taken the time to understand your individual employees’ wants, needs, and motivations. But how can you apply this to company culture?
Consider offering a variety of work benefits that – crucially – employees can pick and choose from. These can cover health and wellbeing, career development, financial incentives, social offerings, volunteering opportunities, and more. For example, providing a hybrid working solution might be key for locking in younger generations.
Offering a pick-and-mix style package affords your team flexibility and will make them feel valued and supported, no matter their generation.
If you’re in charge of a team with a wide range of ages, you will no doubt come across a variety of beliefs and perspectives.
However, it is (rarely) your job to decide who is right amongst this smorgasbord of opinions. In fact, it is your job to provide a safe and inclusive space for people to air their opinions.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t shut down any offensive behavior or language. However, be aware that it is up to you to open up the floor for discussion, as well as to let each team member know that their opinion is valued.
When disagreements come into play, you can always lean on the company’s core values. Diversity and inclusion should naturally be a part of these, and you should spend time making sure these are values that your teams will actually use.
After spending time understanding your employees and providing an inclusive, respectful workspace that prizes diversity, there’s one more step.
The true strength of a multi-generational team lies in mutual cooperation. That is, each generation should work together to forge a brighter path ahead.
This is where the magic happens.
Naturally, creating a multi-generational workforce requires putting together teams of diverse ages, backgrounds, and skill sets.
Understand each individual’s skill set as well as weaknesses, and combine them in collaborative groups where one can help the other. Using online platforms such as a time management tool can be essential here, but don’t just use any tool. Explore which option is best in order to save you time and effort.
Naturally, flexibility is still required in this setting, and many are leaning towards remote work in this current climate. Being able to use video conferencing without a paid plan can be a godsend in such cases, letting creativity and collaboration flow from living rooms and kitchens across the country.
Another way to promote a collaborative environment is to encourage cross-generational mentorships.
Traditionally, this has looked like an older employee extending career guidance to their “greener” counterpart. But what can younger employees offer here?
When reporting on multi-generational teams within the tech industry, Lisa Bertagnoli noted that a mentorship program between an older and younger employee resulted in benefits for both parties.
For example, the more senior employee learned why newer generations were more prone to job-hopping and consequently decided to look for “a common thread of a skill set” when looking at resumes.
Beyond this, both employees bonded over things outside of work, such as the piano and family life. Indeed, the more senior team member felt more relaxed about his own daughter’s career aspirations, as he was now more informed about how a younger generation navigated the job market.
In short, cross-generational mentorship programs can leave your team members feeling supported in more ways than one.
Creating an inclusive environment for a multi-generational team can be challenging. However, there is no doubt that the benefits for your company and your employees themselves are more than worth it.
While many companies are choosing to focus on creating a greener workspace or transitioning to hybrid schedules, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of developing a multi-generational experience for your people. Diversity is becoming increasingly important in the workplace to ensure a broad range of perspectives, ideas, and opinions. With that in mind, incorporating a more inclusive attitude in your company could make your employees feel more valued, boost team morale, and ultimately make your business stronger.
About the Author: Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, a cloud communication solutions platform that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways. Jenna has also written for Together and TRAFFIT.
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