Five Ways To Lead The Multi-Generation Workplace
This year the UN and the World Health Organisation launched a campaign against ageism. Ageism is prejudice against people based on age, whether they are young or old. According to Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs - “Ageism towards younger and older people is prevalent, unrecognized, unchallenged and has far-reaching consequences for our economies and societies.” Their campaign covers various aspects of life, but it has never been a more critical issue when it comes to the workplace, according to Henley Business School’s Dr Tatiana Rowson.
Her research concludes the global workforce is becoming more age-diverse as a reflection of the changing age profile of the worldwide population. So, the workforce will increasingly include people from different generations. Consequently, the quad-gen workplace is already a reality in many organizations.
The Quad-Gen term refers to the four generations currently being active in the workforce and working side by side in organizations – baby boomers, generation X, generation Y, and generation Z. And while this has to do with longevity - with the different routes - young people are choosing to join the workforce, not always via University. Importantly, the mix of ages and generations brings opportunities and challenges which managers must be aware of. However, the risks are largely grounded on labels and stereotypes that do not necessarily make justice to the individual differences within any age group. Unfortunately, these stereotypes influence how people relate to one another, thus generating unconscious bias, creating more distance between people (consolidating the stereotypes further). Over time, stereotypical expectations become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, older employees tend to be offered fewer training opportunities due to the stereotype that older workers are not open to learning new things. A multigeneration workforce, however, provides an excellent opportunity for knowledge exchange, creativity, and innovation. They also reflect the age-diverse consumer market that is out there. This is because when leaders understand the needs of different generations in their organization and value multi-generational talent, they can foster a sense of belonging that translates into greater collaboration towards company’s goals and better results, that’s according to Pamela Ayuso, author, real estate entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of Celaque. Her new book Heptagram: The 7-Pillar Business Design System for the 21st Century is released today. She believes that managing teams already comes with its own set of challenges. And when you are working with multiple generations, it can be more complex. People within the different workgroups may have difficulty communicating and working together effectively. As such, there five key things managers should do to manage the quad-gen workplace effectively.
Make sure to provide opportunities for people to get to know each other: ensure everyone has ways to interact with each other and get to know each other better, and they will be able to find common ground and ways to work together well.
Include everyone: create cross-generational teams. Developing these teams will allow everyone to participate and contribute as well as get to know each other.
Leverage everyone’s strengths: each person comes with his or her strengths and experiences, especially when people come from different generations, and great ideas can come from anyone. Weave in everyone’s strengths to make your team stronger.
Invite everyone to participate: if you are in a meeting, create the space for everyone to be heard. Some people may speak up more often than others, but make sure that every person gives his or her opinion. In this way, everyone will feel that they are part of the team, and the company will benefit from the diversity of views.
Be open to feedback: management is complex, and we all can improve. Keep communication open so that those you manage feel like they can come to you when something is not working out. You will be able to sort out problems before they become more significant.
Ayuso’s views are echoed by Dr Selin Kudret, an Assistant Professor at Kingston Business School. Her research into employer brand segmentation based on generational cohorts in a multinational setting shows that employees from different generations do indeed hold differential individual values at work. Moreover, when they experience an incongruence between what they value and what they actually experience at work, generations also react differentially to this gap. Older generations show greater socio-emotional selectivity towards particular aspects at work and they appear to be highly selective in expressing their negative reactions, Kudret continues. They experience a sharper decrease in their commitment to the organization when they do not experience extrinsic rewards and organizational reputational aspects as much as they value personally, explains Kudret. Otherwise, they remain mostly indifferent to incongruences they experience in other areas of their employment experience.
However, this socio-emotional selectivity is not observed in younger generations, as they seem to react consistently in all aspects of their employment experience when they experience a mismatch. Especially notable is the younger generations’ negative response when they experience more performance demands at work to an extent that exceeds how much they personally desire, says Kudret. Younger generations stand out in this aspect (performance demands), as older generations emerge to be more tolerant in that their commitment levels to the organization do not suffer when they experience higher performance demands that exceed their personally desirable levels. These findings suggest that goals in life tend to be different for older and younger generations; and that older generations tend to select their battles, optimize their individual resources, and compensate for their losses, by regulating their negative responses, more than younger generations do. There is an evidence-based case here for employer brand segmentation by generational cohorts, says Kudret. Organizations have a strong stake in deciphering the needs and values of different generational cohorts through careful research, and in aligning the organizational provisions according to diverse needs of various generational cohorts, Kudret concludes.