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Most workplaces today are multigenerational. This dynamic can help to create a real competitive advantage. Multigenerational teams benefit from a wide range of viewpoints, a broad knowledge base, and diverse cultural influences. Innovation and problem-solving capability can explode. For it to do so, it is essential that individuals within teams and organizations collaborate.
However, the differences between generations pose challenges to the collaborative approach. Values, working methods and mindsets are different between the generations. How do you square these circles to lead a collaborative, multigenerational team?
While each generation has its common traits, this does not mean that all individuals display those same traits. For example, while we usually consider Generation Xers to be the most innovative group, and millennials to be the group most attuned to value-driven, meaningful work, this does not mean that some baby boomers cannot more than hold their own with technological advances or that none are value-driven.
It is useful to understand the general traits of each generation, but more important to recognise and engage commonalities between individuals across the generational divides. Employing a more individualistic approach to management will enable a manager to utilize individual strengths within teams and engender greater teamwork.
Effective communication is key to collaboration. Managers must empower employees across generations to feel that they can voice their views, ideas and concerns confidently. Openness and honesty are fostered by managers encouraging transparency and a feedback culture, and asking questions to clarify understanding.
Often, managers view the differences between employees of different generations as a negative. Yet these differences offer diverse experiences, knowledge and perspectives.
Good managers take this diversity and encourage their people to exchange ideas and perspectives. When people collaborate in this way, misinterpretation decreases, communication improves, and innovation and ideation explode. Good managers encourage individuals to actively collaborate and contribute by celebrating differences and the impact that individuals have on a project and the value they offer to the team.
While it may be impossible to get too many baby boomers to attend an all-night rave, managers should not dismiss the potential of social settings to create more collaborative teams. Well-organized social events are opportunities for colleagues to connect with each other and develop stronger relationships through the discovery of common values. The building of such friendships unlocks greater intergenerational understanding, and can help to release employees from their own pre-conceived ideas and unconscious biases that jeopardize collaboration.
We usually think of mentors as being older and more experienced. However, experience and knowledge does not rely on age. Just as older employees have much to offer their younger colleagues, they can also learn much from those they would traditionally mentor. By taking a more flexible approach to mentorship programs, organizations can help all employees learn from one another – thus also helping to close the generational divide.
Collaboration should be a continuous effort. Managers can encourage this by providing the tools, time and space for collaboration to take place. Provide breakout rooms for regular team meetings – perhaps morning and evening to discuss goals and progress – and make time for these to happen. Communication tools such as email, text and social media can be utilized effectively, and project management tools such as Trello or Teamwork will help to ensure that all team members are updated, informed and consulted throughout project work.
Multigenerational workforces provide exceptional potential benefits. The key to unlocking these benefits is managing generational differences in the workplace effectively. To do this, managers must understand how generations tend to differ from each other, but that individuals cannot be stereotyped. Managers who can release the complementary values, skills, experience and knowledge of different generations will release the power of collaboration. The tips in this article will help you do this.
Contact us today, and discover how we could help your managers and leaders be more effective in developing multigenerational teams and foster the collaboration that delivers high performance.
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