When different groups of people come together, magic happens. But so often, articles and research on the multigenerational workforce focus on generational differences and how to best manage them to avoid conflict. They dissect how varying generational work styles impact the office, from power-sharing issues to communication problems, and offer ways to encourage cohesion. But what about focusing instead on the incredible opportunities that arise when multiple generations come together? Leveraging the strengths of distinct generations– playing to their differences– leads to diverse thinking and stellar collaboration; focusing on multigenerational similarities enhances a sense of community in the office.
At Camp Corral, we are evenly split between Gen Xers and Millennials. This diversity creates a unique dynamic in our office that leads to a constant flow of fresh ideas and an efficient exchange of skills. I love coming to work every day not only because I’m furthering a great cause that I’m passionate about, but also because conscientiousness, collaboration and creativity flourish in the office. I work with an amazing team of women.
There are common trends in each generation’s work style. Baby Boomers, born in the 40s through 60s, make up 25 percent of the workforce and are highly-skilled workaholics who prefer face-to-face communication and value personal achievement. Generation Xers, born in the 70s, make up 33 percent of the workforce. They are pragmatic, resourceful and prefer feedback and suggestions to step-by-step instructions. Millennials, born in the late 80s and early 90s, are globally-minded and high-energy individuals with an intuitive command of digital, mobile and social platforms. Millennials make up 35 percent of the workforce, which is more than any other generation. Gen Zers, born in the late 90s, are tech-savvy entrepreneurs who are just beginning to enter the workforce.
An excellent method for combining the strengths of different generations involves three facets: reverse mentoring, collaboration and company culture.
1. Reverse Mentoring.
We’re in a remarkable position today because four, and sometimes five, generations work alongside one another. To take proper advantage of this phenomenon, it’s important to foster knowledge-sharing among different-aged employees. This type of mutually-beneficial relationship is called reverse mentoring. It involves strategically pairing colleagues together to create learning opportunities that enhance the output of innovative ideas. By prompting generations to engage on a closer level, they can easily share perspectives, experiences and skills with one another.
In a small organization like Camp Corral we don’t need a formal mentorship program because there are only five of us, encouraging a natural team dynamic and knowledge sharing. Reverse mentoring is organic and intuitive in small settings, however in larger companies an official program can be helpful. Offices can promote reverse mentoring by encouraging weekly coffee dates between colleagues.
2. Collaboration: diversity and similarities.
Knowledge-sharing encourages collaboration, a significant opportunity created by a multi-generational workforce. To further enhance collaboration in the workplace, keep two things in mind: diversity and similarities. When it comes to collaboration, these opposites blend together, two sides of the same coin.
Each generation approaches situations and problems differently, so a multigenerational team naturally produces distinctive and diverse ideas. This makes for great brainstorming. A diverse workforce also creates multiple connection points between the company and its audience. When the employees easily relate to their audience and customer base, productivity and profits increase.
Similarities, of course, are just as important. The employees in a workforce are like many parts of one whole, and they share more similarities than differences. Everyone wants to be paid fairly, achieve success, find a purpose in work, know the big picture and, perhaps most importantly, feel respected. Understanding and utilizing similarities between generations in your workplace can really drive teamwork.
Company Culture: respect and flexibility.
Finally, taking advantage of all the benefits a multigenerational workforce has to offer involves creating a great company culture via respect and flexibility.
Everyone craves respect. It is one of the traits that unites all generations. Normally when one thinks of respect, the phrase “respect your elders” might come to mind. And while it’s important to respect older generations in and out of the workplace, the inverse is also true. Older generations also need to respect the talents and skills of youth.
To foster respect in the office, treat people kindly. Be free with praise and recognition– while constructive criticism is valuable, it cannot be the only type of feedback employees receive. It’s important to make sure all workers feel valued and appreciated. This creates an environment where employees feel comfortable making suggestions and offering ideas, improving company morale and work quality.
Flexibility is also essential for cultivating a great company culture. Emphasizing the importance of a healthy work-life balance helps to foster this flexibility in the office. Workplace leaders must be understanding and flexible. Rigid work hours and strict time-off policies lead to unhappiness and lowered productivity. In fact, research has proven that breaks are better for brains over time. Vacation – whether that be a day off or several weeks off – leads to higher motivation to achieve goals and a more positive attitude upon return.
By making sure that company culture encompasses respect and flexibility, you can ensure that all generations are happy, and that the office cultivates efficiency. At Camp Corral, we are a close team that works well together, producing a solid sense of respect in the office. The defining features of our company culture are that we are passionate people who work hard toward a common goal– but we have fun in the process.
A multigenerational workplace is ripe with opportunities for growth, vivacity and ingenuity. Approaching different generations with these three strategies prompts the kind of healthy spirit that makes any organization truly thrive.