As Millennials make their way into the workforce, four generations with very different work beliefs must learn to work together. The workplace has long been established to value company loyalty, a strong work ethic, and a desire for structure, competition, and rules. However, younger staff members (born to Generation X and the Millennial age group) are known to take more risks and do what is right for the individual – a stark contrast from the old mindset of doing what is right for the company.
Having a diverse workforce allows employees the opportunity to understand how others work and what they value. Younger employees will also have the opportunity to learn about proper etiquette and professionalism in the workplace as older employees learn ways to make their daily work easier with technology.
When it comes to communication in the workplace, different age groups have a general preference on how to deal with various job situations. Proper understanding and mentoring can help bridge gaps and increase productivity in the work place. In order to help avoid conflict among the work styles, here are four ways to help bridge the gap in a multigenerational company:
Implement a Reverse Mentoring Program
Traditional forms of mentoring in the workplace usually involve older or higher-level employees teaching new employees the ropes. Expand the learning circle and foster a reverse mentoring program -where younger employees can teach new skills to those around them. This will allow both parties to grow professionally, and help take the company to the next level.
Keeping up with technology is a key factor of business growth and success. Tap into the natural skills of the younger generations to keep older generations up to speed. Having training sessions led by Millennials would increase overall efficiency and productivity, while boosting the morale of the instructors. A program where both parties have the desire to learn and gain something useful (rather than something forced) will be most successful.
Establish Common-ground Rules for Communication
Team members that feel valued in their workplace are more productive than those that feel underappreciated. Identify and establish guidelines to uphold the company culture you built and minimize workplace miscommunications. Here are some recommendations that each generation would appreciate:
1. Take the time to explain tasks and goals clearly
2. Be respectful and treat the mentee equally
3. Provide written or verbal feedback
4. Develop trust and honesty
5. Keep it professional yet comfortable
Address Major Differences
A mentoring opportunity does not have to be completely tailored for each generation, but having an understanding of differences will create a better bond between mentor and mentee. Some major differences that leaders should be aware of include:
• Level of understanding regarding technology: Understanding how comfortable your mentee is with the technology used in the office is important. Be patient with those who may not have grown up with technology and are still learning.
• Frequency of feedback and praise: Younger employees crave more frequent feedback, but make sure they understand the reality of working independently in the work place.
• Level of “traditional” professionalism: Younger generations have a more laid back, personable attitude that contrasts with the traditional distant professional attitude. Make sure expectations regarding the level of professionalism in your office are clear.
Create a Culture of Collaboration
Encourage an environment that allows everyone to learn from each other rather than conflict over differences. This could be the difference between a successful and productive workforce and one with high rates of turnover and dissatisfaction. A reverse mentoring program isn’t the only way to promote engagement between age groups. Find ways to foster a work place where more people are collaborating. Something as simple as a short, daily meeting would help everyone feel more comfortable communicating and naturally create ties among the various ages and positions.
Establishing ways to increase connection and understanding between diverse ages of people in your work force may seem challenging, but taking small steps to integrate your employees can make a stark difference. Recognize and celebrate the work styles that make up your team; this will make them feel more comfortable and confident in their work environment.