To build a strong team and organisation, focus on what the different generations share
Managing the multi-generational landscape in today’s organisations can be a daunting task. Millennials are now in our workforce in large numbers and are rapidly reshaping the rules of the workplace. Research indicates that these individuals are looking for a flexible space that allows them a greater sense of autonomy.
Their strong grasp of technology, need for autonomy/ flexibility and adaptability is bringing about many disruptions in the way we work and the norms we set. At the same time, within the same workplace, we often have Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers co-existing, many of them in influential leadership roles.
While navigating the visible differences between these generations may seem like an insurmountable challenge, what is worth noting is their many similarities.
At the same time, it is important to also harness the power of diversity and bridge the gaps that differing work and communication styles can bring in. Here are some ways in which organisations can bridge the generation gap and harness it constructively.
A culture that values diversity — the blending of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives within a team, is key to making a multi-generational environment work.
This sort of culture helps nurture innovation and teamwork, and is an absolute imperative in today’s world. Leadership needs to visibly support and drive this agenda and inclusion needs to be blended into the organisational values.
“Am I continuing to learn and grow?” is a question that resonates with employees of all generations and ages. Mentoring is a great way to connect talent pools from various generations and leverage each other’s strengths. In our organisation, we have a two-way collaborative mentoring programme which connects our high potentials with some of our senior leaders. The young high potentials are able to get a window into the highest levels of the organisation and also have a possibly accelerated career. The senior leaders on the other hand have the opportunity to gain understanding of a segment of their workforce they might not otherwise get to know. They also get to learn new skills from the young high potentials — for example, personal branding on social media.
Offer instant feedback
Millennials crave instant feedback, and all generations gain from being offered feedback and development inputs on a regular basis. In our flagship leadership development programme, we focus on self-awareness and ongoing feedback as key design elements. We also leverage group coaching and mentoring as techniques to offer feedback and encourage reflection in a less resource intensive way. These sessions can be led by senior managers or could be peer-to-peer, and could additionally leverage existing technology platforms.
The millennial generation is driving unprecedented organisational shifts with respect to the boundaries between “work” and “life”. They view work as a key part of life, not a separate activity that needs to be “balanced” out. It is important for organisations to therefore position flexibility and work-life balance as organisation-wide talent propositions rather than restricted to specific employee groups.
Balance purpose & profit
Millennials want their work to have a purpose; across generations, employees value bringing in meaning into work. Research indicates that millennials are the most socially conscious generation, additionally companies with a larger purpose beyond just financial growth tend to perform better than their counterparts.
Being purpose-driven will bring in stability even in the face of disruptive change and also nurtures employee pride. Managing the generation gap at the workplace is about empowering employees and treating them with respect. Irrespective of the varied environments and socio-economic contexts that each generation grew up in, their fundamental needs and motivators remain unchanged — Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness, as borne out by David Rock’s research. If organisations can leverage these similarities rather than focus on the differences between generations, it will help drive greater collaboration