bridging the generation gap
BRIDGING THE GENERATION GAP IN THE WORKPLACE

In today’s society, the workforce is primarily multigenerational. This means that for the first time in human history, there are multiple generations actively engaged in the workforce i.e. the Baby Boomers who were born between 1946 – 1964, Generation X born between 1965 – 1980 and Millennials born between 1980- 2000. Each generation has different thoughts and beliefs unique to the time period in which they were brought up. It is important to acknowledge that these generational differences exist and thus synergise them for a more conducive and productive work environment. This article looks at some of the ways to bridge the generation gap in the workplace.

  1. CREATE A KNOWLEDGE SHARING CULTURE

The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

-Andy Rooney

Older workers hold immense knowledge, and as they head towards their golden years, loads of valuable information, skills and lessons are lost. This in turn creates a knowledge vacuum that cannot be easily filled; however this does not have to be detrimental.[1]

Have programs where veteran employees can teach various courses and showcase their knowledge and expertise to the younger employees. The younger generations are used to being stimulated constantly and it’s wise to offer development coaching and training programs to keep them growing and learning new things. The older generations can mentor them by including them in meetings, client interactions and new business pitches. When employees feel trusted and valued it boosts their commitment, motivation, and loyalty.[2]

  1. FOCUS ON INCLUSIVITY

The Millennial generation has often been described as lazy, self-centred and entitled. Living with the burden of this generalised assumption can be demotivating and may even discourage some from taking part in collaborative projects. It is important to note that millennials have grown up in a world driven by the internet and social media which has created a need to feel included and to share their opinions.

As an employer, try to engage them and listen to their views and pose questions about their ideas and how best to execute them. Ensure to include them in meetings and decision making processes where possible.[3] Many Millennials have grown up in an environment that promotes diversity. They focus more on the willingness of a business to embrace and include a diversity of ideas and perspectives within a positive and supportive culture. If you create a culture of diversity that recognises past and current perspectives, your workforce will be more engaged and more productive.

  1. APPRECIATE WHAT EACH GENERATION HAS TO OFFER

The beauty of having a multi-generational work place, is each of these generations bring knowledge and skillsets unique to their life experiences.

The older generation for instance, view work as a privilege and value loyalty and respect for authority figures. This means that they work hard and believe in company loyalty. They value the bond and partnerships formed over time and are optimistic and disciplined,  – they are strong team players. They tend to have strong technical skills and are generally more independent than previous generations. The Millennials in the workforce are more entrepreneurial and tech savvy. They tend to want independence and may be motivated by security and development. Multi-tasking also comes naturally for this group. This is the first generation to come of age during the rapid growth of the internet. They are considered to be among the most resilient in navigating change with an appreciation for diversity and inclusion. Millennials are generally the most educated generation of workers today.[4]

  1. ESTABLISH EFFICIENT COMMUNICATION METHODS

Communication is important because it bridges the gap between individuals and groups. Effective and regular communication is not a trait that’s exclusive to one generation, but employees may communicate differently and at different times depending on their age.

These differing communication preferences can lead to mixed messages and misunderstandings in the office. A younger employee may send an email addressing a disagreement with their older manager or colleague when the older party thinks they should have a formal meeting. Not only does each generation communicate with varying frequency, but they’re using different means to communicate as well. Be sure to offer several means for communication, both formal and informal and ensure that everyone understands the best way to air issues and problem solve.[5]

  1. AVOID ONE SIZE FITS ALL MANAGEMENT

Managing generationally diverse employees also means that you need to switch up your managerial styles accordingly. For example, having a management plan that is millennial-friendly might make their seniors feel out of place and lead to a decrease in their productivity. The reverse is also possible.

When managing the Millennials in the workplace, be sure to focus on the quality of their work rather than the hours they spend working. Additionally, provide guidance and learning opportunities for them to grow and improve their skills. For the older generations, provide leeway for them to work without close supervision as they prefer autonomy. They also value recognition for their hard work and skills.[6]

As time goes by and people continue to age, generational shifts are inevitable. Managing and supporting multigenerational employees can sometimes be difficult. However, with a proactive leadership approach, these generational differences can be an added strength and source of innovation to the company. Generational differences are tremendously advantageous and with these few tips, you can achieve the full potential of your diverse workplace.

Mshimba Michelle


[1] https://ideas.bkconnection.com/bridging-the-workplace-generation-gap-in-your-organization

[2] https://www.employmentlawhandbook.com/general/four-solutions-to-bridge-the-generation-gap-in-the-workplace/

[3] https://resources.workable.com/stories-and-insights/millennials-in-the-workplace

[4] https://www.digitalhrtech.com/generational-differences-in-the-workplace/#How

[5] https://www.business2community.com/human-resources/5-ways-to-bridge-the-generation-gap-between-employees-02292982

[6] https://www.paychex.com/articles/human-resources/how-to-manage-multiple-generations-in-the-workplace

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