10 Tips For Building Generational Inclusive WorkplacesTuesday, 11th August 2020
Guest blog by Clare Mulligan-Foster, CMC Business Psychology
Whilst we focus on many different types of diversity in the workplace, that are all equally important, this post recognises and aims to increase generational diversity in the workplace. The majority of companies today are multi-generational and work with many employees from not only different backgrounds but different generations. This means that priority values are often different between colleagues, and with this, conflict can arise. While it is important not to make generalisations about different age groups, there are some things you can do to manage a team of different generations of people more effectively and get the most from everyone in your team.
Topics such as benefits and retirement often spark conflict, with the two main generations in work at the moment (baby boomers and millennials) having differing values. For example, baby boomers are advocates for retirement benefits whereas millennials are more focused on more short-term rewards such as flexible working, dependent care, and parental leave. Conflicts can also arise when Generation X assume that the lack of interest in retirement from millennials means they are only focused on instant gratification (Notter, 2002). The challenges of organisations are to zone in on each generations’ needs and provide support to them accordingly, which is most successfully executed with effective and inclusive communication.
We have researched and put together a list of tips to develop generational diversity in your workplace.
- Challenge stereotypes – treat people as individuals and challenge some of your own possible age/generational biases. It also helps to address unsaid biases from the beginning to avoid stereotypical thinking. Make sure you hold people accountable for relying on stereotypical thinking.
- Create a trusted team environment where people can be open and honest with one another and share their perceptions of each other’s behaviours. Sharing perceptions and opinions can help each team member feel heard and people can learn from one another. For example, a Traditional may find a Gen Yer’s lack of formality and manners offensive, while a Gen Yer may feel dismissed when this older employee fails to respect their opinions.
- Set up reverse mentoring – each generation can learn from each other. Benefits of reverse mentoring include closing the knowledge gap for both parties, empowering emerging and established leaders and bringing different employee generations closer together.
- Consider communication defaults. Gen Y and Gen X have been found more comfortable with social media and technology. Baby Boomers prefer scheduled meetings with clear agendas, whereas Gen Y are used to a more instant access of knowledge and information in order to make decisions. Think about what your preference is; and that your preference might not be the preference of some of your colleagues. It is important to remember that it can be a matter of how others interpret your intention behind communications and whether they feel included or even frustrated. Does someone feel out of the loop because of your communication preference?
- Review processes – are some of your people management processes relevant for all generations? Think abut your recruitment processes or your team meetings. Do you feel all generational values are accounted for? Have you sourced the view of different generations?
- Share career stories – each generation will have a different view of managing careers, but also each generation will have different ways of developing their career. Sharing stories or your career aspirations but also how you got where you are, can help build relationships, increase motivation and also give career paths maybe unknown to others.
- Build diverse teams – ensure teams have a representation from different ages and different generations. One of the strong affinities we often see of peoples work network is that they spend a lot of time with people of a similar age and people in the same generation as themselves. Look at your project teams and check if there is representation of all generations. Do we give voice to other generations? Diverse teams can lead to increased creativity, innovation, employee engagement and a better reputation, so they are very important.
- Recognise the impact of your people strategies and systems, evaluate your efforts. For example, if you build a flatter structure to encourage innovation and knowledge sharing, then also be prepared that some generations may see the accessibility of talking to leaders and not play the politics game that other generations may expect.
- Build your social capital. Social capital is the strength and diversity of your network. Think about the people you engage with most frequently regarding work. How diverse is that group? Do you feel you could benefit from more age diversity in your trusted network?
- Learn about each generation. What are their influences? Who are their role models? What are their work values? Understand that each generation may have a different life experience from you and that their formative years’ experience and social learning may have created a different perspective to ways of working from you. Remember every person has their own truth and in respecting each perspective and taking time to listen and learn, we can all work towards a more inclusive workplace. Getting to know each individual in a generation also helps to consider generational trends and adapt your management styles accordingly.