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Generational Diversity: How to Get Later Gens to Embrace It
Generationally diverse teams lend a competitive edge to organizations willing to embrace them. Managing generational diversity can be challenging, however. Savvy leaders who understand its subtleties and adapt their leadership style to accommodate it can make a multigenerational workforce work wonders.
Generational diversity is a strength.
With increasing life expectancy and more and more people choosing to work well into their senior years, the generational diversity of the workforce has never been stronger than it is these days. Up to five different generations can find themselves working together in one office.
“Ok Boomer.” – Catchphrase young people use to mock the supposedly archaic attitudes of older people typically belonging to the Baby Boomer generation
Generational Diversity in the Workforce is Beneficial
Organizations benefit from this diversity, using the unique style, traits, abilities, and proclivities of each generation to their advantage. With generational diversity comes intergenerational conflict, however. Capable, transformational leaders understand that this conflict is inevitable and that it is up to them to defuse it.
The Causes of Intergenerational Conflict
To successfully address a problem such as intergenerational conflict, one must understand its causes.
In addition to its unique characteristics and aspirations, each generational group brings to the table a similarly unique set of expectations. These expectations define how a certain group wants others to treat it, meet its needs, and respect it. When the work environment fails to meet these expectations, conflict occurs.
Ignoring these unique characteristics and expectations leads to an ever-increasing gap between them and the realities of the intergenerational status-quo.
From the perspective of leadership, the way to narrow this gap is to show empathy and sensitivity to the needs of all generational groups.
Managing Generational Diversity
In this instance, leading by example translates to management taking the required steps to acknowledge and accept the unique characteristics and expectations of the different generational groups. An environment of acceptance and understanding encourages employees to adopt a similar stance toward generational conflict.
Avoiding stereotypes is always a winning move.
Above and beyond creating such a climate, leadership can manage generational diversity through many other concrete steps.
- It can use recruiting strategies that target diverse age groups while steering clear of age-discriminating language. One way to accomplish such a broad targeting objective is to consider the full range of channels through which an organization can acquire talent. Referrals and professional networks suit Baby Boomers better. Online campaigns are more likely to net Generation Z talent.
- It can ignore stereotypes and consider the individual needs of employees. It may seem like an attractive, effort-saving shortcut to generalize using age-based assumptions. To create relevant relationships, however, thereby improving employee engagement, the intelligent leader will take the time to listen to each employee and find out what his/her expectations are.
- It can tailor its communication style to suit the needs of different generational groups. Baby Boomers may prefer face-to-face communication or phone calls to online chat. Generation Y and Z will likely prefer instant messaging and online collaboration. It is up to the leader to take these preferences into account when choosing communication styles.
- Creating generation-diverse teams is the best way to leverage the advantages of generational diversity. An age-wise diverse group can open many different or even competing perspectives on a problem, resulting in a large pool of possible solutions. Younger employees can add technical knowledge to the creativity and experience of their older peers. Such a setup also encourages individuals to develop relationships across generational divides.
- Establishing mentorship programs encourages younger generations to embrace generational diversity. It also improves employee retention, offering a workable solution for succession planning.
Although doubtlessly challenging for organizations on many different levels, generational diversity gives a long-term competitive edge to those who understand its subtleties and know how to defuse its conflicts.
Learn More about Generational Diversity and Leadership
Read my blog posts and take a look at my leadership development books in which I address every facet of the link between leadership succession and mentorship.