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Managing a multi-generational team means understanding individuals’ needs and expectations, says careers expert Amanda Augustine.
With more British workers remaining in the workforce well into their 70s, it’s becoming increasingly common to find as many as five different generations working together at one company: Generation Z (1997-2012), Millennials (1981-1996), Generation X (1965-1980), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), and the Silent Generation (1928-1945).
Building an age diverse workforce with differing experiences and skills can deliver huge benefits to an organisation. For it to be most powerful, however, it’s important to be aware of the differing expectations and ways of working that exist within a multi-generational team. Here, TopCV careers expert Amanda Augustine talks about differences in style and approach which may be both individual and generational and how to manage them.
Understanding your team’s work-environment expectations is important. Different generations – or individuals – may have different ideas about how and where they want to work, depending on their circumstances.
So, before making any changes to the working environment, seek feedback to better understand employees’ unique needs and preferences, rather than automatically stereotyping them based on their age. Your goal is to build a workplace where everyone feels supported, regardless of their working style.
For example, consider offering remote work on a hybrid or full-time basis, encouraging asynchronous work when it makes sense to accommodate those seeking flexible working hours and investing in tools that make it easy for employees to communicate and collaborate with one another, regardless of their location. In addition, reevaluate your office space to ensure the layout is organised to maximise productivity for office-goers.
Another recurring issue has to do with tool preferences and usage among the generations, especially whilst working in a remote environment.
Ideally, you should try to accommodate workers’ technical needs within reason. Instead of investing in numerous tools that perform the same function for the organisation, aim to invest in fewer user-friendly technology solutions and provide training to help employees who are less tech-savvy adapt to these new tools. In addition, look to leverage the expertise of your ‘tech-proficient’ employees who can facilitate knowledge sharing.
You can take this concept to the next level by rolling out a formal mentorship programme that allows employees of all ages to share their experience and knowledge with one another. This one tactic can help you achieve multiple goals; programmes like these promote knowledge transfer, bridge generation gaps, help your less tech-savvy employees feel more comfortable using the available tools, and provide the professional development and face-to-face time many people thrive on. It’s a win-win for multiple generations.
In addition, communication in a remote environment has been an ongoing issue. Different generations or individuals may prefer different communication tools, from Slack to email to picking up the phone.
So, when it comes to communication, it’s best to cover all of your bases. If you need to get a message across to an audience that consists of multiple generations, don’t rely on one channel of communication to get the job done. Rather, be prepared to disseminate your message using all the communication channels that are available. For example, if you need everyone on your team to provide their feedback on a proposal, you might send a Slack message to the group, send an email that reiterates this message, remind everyone in your next team meeting and put a reminder on everyone’s calendars.
If your communication issues tend to be with specific individuals, consider starting afresh and asking each person about their communication preferences during your next one-to-one meeting with them. This is especially important if your working environment has recently changed or if someone is new to the team.
Finally, it’s important to take ‘temperature checks’ to get a better understanding of employee needs, expectations and preferences. Instead of implementing long employee engagement surveys on an annual basis, it may be better to try asking a couple of questions every month to get a better pulse on your employees. These pulse checks can help you revisit the tools your company uses for communication and collaboration and the policies it implements around the working environment.
She is also a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) & Certified Professional CV Writer (CPRW).