Thanks in part to medical advances and an increased focus on physical and mental wellness, people are living longer, healthier lives. As a result, workers are delaying retirement and staying in the workplace longer, a trend that has helped create a more age-diverse workforce than ever before.
Gallup research shows a steady increase in the age at which Americans intend to retire. In the 1990s, the majority of employees expected to retire at age 60, but 41% of Americans now target 66 as retirement age. For many companies, workplaces may soon contain five distinct generations of employees, if they do not already.
This increasing age diversity can bring a myriad of benefits to the workplace, but may also present challenges. Generational divides have the potential to create conflict among employees who hold differing views, priorities and attitudes toward the workplace.
Below are a few tips for managers to successfully navigate these challenges and embrace the challenges of a multigenerational team.
Understand the workforce.
Team leaders should be familiar with the key differentiators of the generations they manage, but should not allow these stereotypes to dictate their management style. Instead, it is crucial to understand and recognize the individual priorities of team members. For example, if leaders understand how the average millennial prefers to communicate or how baby boomers typically like to receive feedback, they can tailor their management style to these preferences. This basic understanding can provide a strong starting place, but managers should still take the time to learn employees’ individual preferences to maximize impact.
Younger generations often have a strong desire to grow and learn through professional development opportunities. To encourage this, company leaders should consider implementing a mentorship program to foster a culture of growth and enable employees to bond with one another. This can give help both junior and tenured workers alike, building positive relationships, boosting engagement and giving all involved the chance to develop new skills and share important knowledge. Mentoring programs may also help diffuse potential tensions by building teamwork and creating a path for all employees to progress in their careers.
Adaptability is a fundamental skill for business leaders, especially those who manage a diverse team of professionals. The most effective way to communicate with team members can vary greatly depending on individual preferences. For instance, some may favor more traditional communication methods, such as email, whereas younger staffers may prefer instant messaging platforms or text messages. Managers who remain responsive to these preferences can better serve their teams and encourage collaboration.
Resolve conflict quickly.
Transparency is a valuable quality in any manager, but it is particularly important for leaders of age-diverse teams. When conflicts arise, supervisors should communicate their expectations quickly and clearly to all involved. Delaying or avoiding action can worsen the situation and widen the divide between employees. While differences in opinions and views should be welcomed, any negative conflict should be quickly identified and addressed.
Supporting and managing several distinct generations of employees can present a range of challenges for company leaders. By remaining mindful of individual preferences and investing in personal relationships, managers can benefit from a diversity of ideas and opinions, which can, in turn, drive success. By preparing for and handling conflict appropriately, managers can reap the benefits of a multigenerational workforce and build a stronger organization.
By Rick Gibbs
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