In 2017, millennials became the largest generational demographic in the US workforce. In contrast, workers over the age of 65 are currently the fastest growing demographic. The result is a multi-generational workforce that offers a unique combination of dynamic new energy and decades of institutional knowledge.
At the same time, the generational differences between workers also represent new challenges for organizations across industries. Executives need to deliver a great employee experience for all staff—but how do you engage each member of a team when they’re decades apart in experience and age? In this post, we’ll examine best practices to help you empower a multi-generational team to collaborate and do their best work.
According to Gallup, only 13 percent of US workers strongly agree that their leadership communicates effectively. So how should you communicate with different generations of workers? We all know the stereotypes: Baby boomers are technophobic. Gen Xers dislike authority and teamwork. Millennials are glued to their phones (but refuse to talk on them). And Gen Z workers… well, we haven’t figured out how to stereotype them yet, but it probably involves Tik Tok and memes.
You’ve probably heard these generalizations before—but if you’re going to effectively engage a multi-generational workforce, it’s vital to move past stereotypes and empathize with individuals. Some baby boomers are quite tech-savvy, not all Gen Xers are independent loners, and millennials still need face-to-face communication in order to thrive. Instead of assuming you know how someone likes to communicate at work, ask them in a face-to-face interview, group setting, or employee survey. This allows you to better understand each employee’s preferences so you can provide an employee experience that inspires their best work.
Each generation of workers values the opportunity to learn and grow at work—but 59 percent of millennials say these learning opportunities are extremely important, significantly more than Gen X or Baby Boomers. In the same vein, 87 percent of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them (compared to 69 percent of non-millennials who say the same).
From this, it’s clear that reskilling and learning opportunities are a proven way to engage workers across generations (especially millennials). The improved employee experience from reskilling can also reduce talent acquisition costs and improve employee retention, as Cigna saw from an employee education program that delivered a 129 percent return on investment. In addition to sending employees to offsite workshops and enrolling them in online reskilling courses, cross-generational employee mentorship can also be an effective way to instill a culture of learning and help employees form closer relationships on the job.
Another proven way to engage employees across generations is letting them get their work done with the devices and apps they choose from wherever they want to work. However, PWC reports that only 60 percent of employees say they’re satisfied with the mobile options at their jobs, and 73 percent say they know of systems that would help them produce higher quality work. Because different generations of workers will have different preferences for their work devices and apps, your workplace technology should maximize their ability to choose.
Here digital workspace technology becomes especially useful because its flexibility allows each employee to choose the tools and apps they user to do their work. Flexibility is also important when it comes to remote and onsite work environments, as employees work best when they can select the best work environment for the tasks at hand. Providing choice of technology and work environment not only increases employee engagement across generations, but also spares you from having to design specific policies and tech setups for each employee.
A common theme for all these best practices is to listen to all your employees to learn how best to manage them, rather than relying on generalizations about different generations. This empathetic approach to leadership is the best way to unify the dynamic energy of younger workers with the industry experience of older employees, creating a work environment where everyone feels empowered by a great employee experience.
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