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  • Writer's pictureChrysanthi Sophia Karampetsi

Younger vs Older Employees: How to Deal with Generational Differences

“What you believe about employees comes out in how you treat them. And how you treat them ultimately determines how effectively you engage them.”

In a world of age-diverse organizations, with employees ranging in age from 18 to 65, it can be extremely challenging to create a workplace that is flexible enough to suit the different work expectations. Since the workplace is made up of many generations, one might think that teams excel in wisdom, experience, fresh and innovative ideas. Nowadays, different generations with different perspectives and work styles are working alongside each other, however, the daily challenges are multiple. Creating an inclusive and efficient workplace might be hard, especially when conflict takes place due to generational differences. While older generations might seek work-life balance, individuality or material success, younger generations thrive for flexible working environments where they are able to work whenever and wherever they want, constructive feedback, fast career progression and autonomy.

How can managers effectively deal with multigenerational teams?

  1. Mix people up

An age-diverse team can be a great asset in the organization because they can grow and learn from one another. While older generations can provide a wealth of knowledge that comes from their countless years of work, new generations can assist them with the latest tech innovations. Think about the make-up of your team and encourage a pairing of older with younger colleagues. Set projects up with a mix of ages, so they will influence each other and maximize their potential. A mix up can benefit both younger and established team members, as they can share technology skills, improve their communication and interpersonal skills, and gain new wider perspectives.

2. Set up mentoring relationships

We usually have in mind that only senior employees can mentor younger ones. We tend to believe that young employees lack experience, skills and knowledge. However, this is not true since one can find skills gaps on both sides. A team that focuses only on traditional mentoring approaches might not reach its full potential. A mentoring relationship can be a powerful tool to improve understanding and collaboration and close any generational gap or conflict. Ensure to set up the right mentor and mentee, one that has the skills and knowledge that the other lacks. For example, a younger employee who is more comfortable with social media can provide valuable knowledge to an older employee who lacks experience. Make clear that this relationship is two-way and both can learn. Help team members to remain open-minded throughout the process and make them feel confident enough to mentor the person needed.

3. Adequate training irrespective the age

As a manager, you need to provide adequate training and development plan to each team member. A common misconception is that training older employees is less effective as older adults learn slower or they are not likely to want further development. Although it might be true that older adults might need more time to acquire new skills, however, a training that is specifically designed for older employees might help them attain new goals, increase their engagement, enthusiasm and motivation. Older workers’ development needs should not be marginalized and avoided. No matter the age, every person might struggle with something at work and might need extra training. Discuss training options and development plans with each team member and try to help them achieve their objectives.

4. Be flexible

Flexibility is one core characteristic particularly important to employees of all ages. Flexibility for a younger employee might be to work from home, while for an older employee is to work less hours. A manager must understand how the employees think about flexibility in order to keep them productive in their jobs. When you understand their needs or preferences, then you are able to avoid conflicts, division or misunderstandings. Each generation values different ways and methods of work and is imperative to have a flexible and clear understanding.

5. Focus on the strengths

Embrace the strengths of a multigenerational team that unite them rather their differences. An age-diverse team brings new ideas, varying levels of experience and suggestions for improvements and innovation. In addition, there are many similarities among them. For example, they all want to feel engaged with their work, to achieve, to be happy and respected. A good leader should look for and understand the strengths of his team while focusing on their shared values and expectations.

“It’s about getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment & helping to find a way to innovate.”

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