Multigenerational employees smile during a conference room meeting
When managers lead their teams to collaborate and communicate effectively, having employees from a range of generations can remarkably impact productivity and innovation. — Getty Images/fizkes

The current range of age diversity in the workforce is as wide as it’s ever been. Members of the silent generation and baby boomers are working side-by-side with millennials and Generation Zers. And as more workers delay retirement and younger professionals graduate, the workforce will see a more equal distribution of age groupings in the years to come.

Having such a wide range of perspectives and experiences can remarkably impact productivity and innovation. Though the opportunity for collaboration abounds, challenges among the generational divide persist, too.

Challenges of managing a multigenerational team

Leaders of multigenerational teams must be proactive in addressing the differences in communication, experience, work styles and perspectives among their employees. A few common challenges include:

Communication issues

Generations communicate at work differently. Though individuals vary, it may be more commonplace for older employees to prefer in-person conversations or phone calls, and younger employees may prefer typing their communication.

“Ironing out these preferences will help everyone on the team feel valued and heard — two critical elements to a happy and productive team,” said Stephen Kohler, CEO of Audira Labs — an innovative coaching and leadership development team that provides transformative, music-infused leadership development services.

Negative stereotypes

Younger people may believe that their older counterparts work more slowly or cannot use technology as efficiently. Older generations may think their younger coworkers feel entitled and are overly sensitive. It's the responsibility of a manager to erase stereotypes and establish authenticity based on each employee’s skills and opportunities to grow.

Varying employee expectations

Employee expectations evolve as they get older and move into different phases of their life. While tuition reimbursement and student loan assistance are appealing to younger workers, older professionals may be more interested in child/elder care assistance for their family members or increased retirement savings benefits.

[Read more: 6 Tips for Adapting Your Leadership Style in the Modern World]

Communicate with your employees and make sure that you put clear expectations on how each method of communication should be used. This will ensure that no member of the team is missing out on important information.

Darryn Garson, chief growth officer at iBrands Global

Tips for managing a multi-generational team

Give each employee a sense of purpose

Because employees of different generations may seek different professional experiences, employers should identify what gives each employee purpose and ensure the work or culture satisfies that individual’s needs. Giving attention to employees as individuals can increase motivation and productivity and entices employees to stay with the company.

“You need to help them with their development, and most importantly incentivize them to stay,” said Darryn Garson, chief growth officer at iBrands Global.

Set clear communication expectations

Older generations may feel more comfortable with — phone calls and in-person meetings, while younger workers may adopt web-based communication platforms more easily for efficiency and comfort. Leaders should discuss the preferred way for the team to communicate with their team to avoid miscommunication.

“It is very important to communicate with your employees and make sure that you put clear expectations on how each method of communication should be used,” said Garson. “This will ensure that no member of the team is missing out on important information.”

[Read more: How Do Older Entrepreneurs Compare to Younger Business Owners?]

Engage employees

Not everyone will adapt to a singular style of work. Managers should sit down with their multigenerational teams to create team requirements and discuss work style preferences.

“These collaboratively-constructed ground rules will help teams determine how to communicate, how to measure success, what work-life balance looks like or how to ask for help,” said Kohler. “When things go awry — and they will — check in with each other to either re-commit to or re-design the ground rules as needed.”

Create an employee value proposition (EVP) that is attractive to all generations

Having an assortment of benefits that focus on well-being at each employee’s personal life stage can attract and retain all generations. Offering voluntary, employee-funded benefits, like pet insurance, accident insurance, travelers insurance and identity theft protection, ensures your benefits program provides something for everyone in your workplace.

Respect each employees’ boundaries

Those of younger generations may be more comfortable normalizing discussions about certain topics at work, such as race, gender and sexual orientation. Those of other generations may consider these topics taboo in a professional environment. Create an open environment where it remains acceptable to communicate about sensitive topics while respecting everyone’s comfort levels.

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Published March 21, 2022