5 Generations: Cooperating Effectively in the Workplace

Generations, gremlin, August 2015, iStock
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By 2020, there will be five generations in the workplace. Spanning decades of conflicting morals and ethics, different levels of technology fluency and the battle for career progression, the people function will be faced with the task of generational management.

It is likely that the wide range age will influence the creation of cliques, with younger, tech-savvy millennials co-operating and communicating with each other more than their Boomer colleagues, and vice versa. So how can you influence a co-generational mingling?

Define What Your Employees Represent

Traditionalists, born before 1945, Boomers born between 1946 and 1964, Gen X – 1965 to 1976, Millennials – 1977 to 1997 and Gen 2020, born after 1997. In the next five years, it is likely your organization will employ a mixture of all of the above generations, and ensuring your policies and practices are interchangeable between all five is important if you strive for total engagement from your workforce.

Identify Needs, Strengths and Weaknesses

The Carebridge Employee Assistance Program at Princeton University states that traditionalists “understand that ‘no news is good news’ and expect feedback only when a goal is met. Boomers expect corporate accomplishments to be recognized through promotions, a hierarchy of titles and a yearly pay rise,” while Gen Xers and Millennials “seek immediate and continual feedback to assure they are on target with organizational goals.” [1]

Identifying the expectations of your workforce is the first step in avoiding tension. With different expectations comes different strengths and weaknesses and it’s important to assess these, too.

Understand Reactions to Predict Solutions

The Carebridge Program states that traditionalists “grew up respecting authority and utilizing the corporate chain of command,” while “Boomers look for team consensus, Gen Xers prefer to resolve problems immediately and directly,” and Millenials “proactively utilize the conflict management skills taught during their school years.” Each generation will likely react to and instill authority differently, so consider this when dealing with grievances. Of course each individual will not be the same, but being prepared for the most typical generational traditions will work in your favor!

Establish Mentorships

Your younger workers will probably be more tech-savvy, is there a way you can encourage them to share this knowledge with previous generations without being condescending? At the same time, your more experienced workers will likely have a stronger work ethic and a longer list of accomplishments.

Establishing strong communication and information sharing can develop a unified team. Creating formal mentor relationships can aid development as well as employee relations.

With so many new ideas gathering in the workplace, it’s important to encourage collaboration early on. In order to get the strongest performance out of all of your talent, enthuse them to communicate and work together as a team, not against each other competitively.

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