The age profile of the workforce is undoubtedly changing and multi-generational teams are now very much a part of modern working life. There are lots of good reasons for having workers of different ages, from the tech-savvy younger workers with their newly acquired and up-to-date qualifications, to older workers with their maturity, experience and acquired business acumen.
Different perspectives, and an environment where an exchange of views and ideas is welcomed, is recognised as a basis to improving productivity and performance.
However, there can be challenges, for example, where younger managers either lead, or find the need to recruit, teams of older colleagues. The manager may feel uncomfortable seeking to recruit, and /or working with people who may actually have more experience. A younger manager should not feel uncomfortable, or threatened by, working with colleagues, or seeking to attract the required business need skills, from a multi-generational workforce. Such an approach will garner respect and support from employees, regardless of their age, who value having a responsive, supportive and competent manager.
There are different ways for managers to navigate the challenges they may face and first and foremost is to set aside any stereotypes of different generations, whether they be millennials or baby boomers, and assess the abilities and qualities of their team.
A multi-generational team offers a vast array of opportunities to ‘mix and match’ a wealth of experience, skills and talents. Bringing such resources together, provides a platform to dispel many generational myths, such as older workers being less productive than younger colleagues.
It is also a fallacy that older workers do not have the same personal development ambitions as younger workers. It is important to provide opportunities for career progression as well as training and retraining to all staff, so that everyone feels genuinely valued and recognised for their talents, and age, whatever that may be, is no barrier.
Age diverse teams can be invaluable in the workplace and there are some key ways in which managers can establish effective and successful relationships with their teams. Openness to different opinions is vital, as well as effective communication that provides progressive feedback with a continuous improvement ethos.
Managers who appreciate the expertise of their team gain the respect of their colleagues and this can be enhanced by creating an environment in which all staff are invited to have a voice about the processes and functions carried out by the team.
Whilst inclusivity is important, so too is having a manager who is able to lead, be assertive and make good decisions. Not everyone will agree with their decisions but being transparent and ensuring that the team understands the reasons behind them goes a long way to gaining their trust.
These are all elements that should be considered when creating an equitable workplace, that can only be achieved with a shift towards an inclusive and inter-sectional culture.
We can break it down in to three core themes:
- Listen – rather than making assumptions about different generations, encourage managers, leaders….all employees, to share and welcome feedback. Listen to each individual personally and avoid stereotyping.
- Communication – do all you can to communicate vision and values openly and transparently. Take account of strengths and capabilities of each generation and communicate accordingly.
- Mentoring – take advantage of multi-generational strengths and values, to create environments where valuable skills and insights can be exchanged. Attention to such a mentoring approach, provides the forum for developing ideas and innovation, that can ultimately lead to broader skills for individuals and teams, and improved performance for the organisation.
The opportunity of a Multi-Generational Workforce is now, so remove the challenges, barriers and bias of ageism, to improve the welfare of your employees and set new standards for output and performance.
Jill Cowles | Partnership Manager |The Age Diversity Forum