3 Keys To Engaging With a Multigenerational Workforce

multigenerational workforce

It’s a pretty incredible time to be part of a team! We’re all part of an extremely diverse, multigenerational workforce which includes people of all ages, each bringing unique values, insights, experiences, and work habits to the table. These generations include the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. And, learning how to engage with today’s wide array of professionals has never been more important. We’ve outlined three key items for leadership at all levels to keep in mind when driving towards deeper engagement within each demographic!

The Multigenerational Workforce Defined

  • Silent Generation (Born 1928-1945): This generation commonly values hard work, consistency, and conformity. Having grown up during the Great Depression and World War II, members of the Silent Generation are generally disciplined, cautious, and place a high value on financial security. They prefer formal, direct communication and often respect hierarchical structures in the workplace.
  • Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964): Baby Boomers value face-to-face communication and have a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer. They are often motivated by positions that allow them to pass down their knowledge and see their impact on the organization.
  • Generation X (Born 1965-1980): Members of Generation X value independence and flexibility, often seeking a balance between work and life. They are self-reliant, resourceful, and skeptical of authority. Generation X prefers to work with minimal supervision and values opportunities for professional development.
  • Millennials (Born 1981-1996): Millennials are tech-savvy and value collaboration and social impact. They thrive on feedback and are often driven by work that contributes to a larger purpose. This generation favors flexible working conditions and places a strong emphasis on work-life balance.
  • Generation Z (Born 1997-2012): Generation Z values authenticity, technology integration, and social justice. They are digital natives who seek independence and opportunities to learn and advance quickly within a company. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are particularly important to this cohort.

1) Communication Strategies

Effective communication across generations involves recognizing and adapting to the preferences of each group to ensure that all employees feel valued and understood. For instance, Baby Boomers, who came of age in a more traditional work environment, often prefer direct communication methods such as phone calls or face-to-face meetings, which they perceive as more personal and reliable. On the other hand, Millennials and Generation Z, who have grown up in the digital age, are more accustomed to the speed and convenience of digital communication tools like emails, messaging apps, and social media platforms. These younger generations often value the ability to communicate quickly and on-the-go, appreciating the flexibility that digital communication offers.

To bridge these differences and foster an inclusive environment, it’s beneficial for organizations to employ a variety of communication methods. This approach not only accommodates individual preferences but also encourages a culture of learning and adaptability. By integrating traditional and digital communication practices, teams can leverage the strengths of each method. For example, while important announcements might be conveyed in a detailed email or newsletter, follow-up discussions could take place in a team meeting or via a video call, ensuring clarity and allowing for immediate feedback.

2) Leveraging Technology

Introducing technology that enhances workplace efficiency is crucial for keeping an organization competitive and productive. However, it’s essential to do so without alienating non-tech-savvy employees. To achieve this balance, companies should provide comprehensive training for any new software or tools they implement. This training should be accessible and tailored to different learning paces and styles, ensuring that all employees, regardless of their initial comfort level with technology, can become proficient and comfortable over time.

Consider how you might tailor training programs to fit the unique needs and skill levels of each employee. This involves setting clear goals and creating a structured progression that helps employees build knowledge and skills effectively. This approach respects individual learning paces and maximizes engagement by aligning training with personal and professional growth goals. Here are a few additional best practices to keep in mind:

  • Embrace Technology: Digital tools like learning management systems (LMSs) can offer interactive elements such as quizzes, simulations, and gamification, which enhance learning and retention.
  • Diversify Methods: Incorporate a blend of training to suit different learning styles. This can include visual aids for visual learners, discussions for auditory learners, and/or hands-on activities for kinesthetic learners. Mixing methods like workshops, video tutorials, and real-life scenarios can help maintain attention and cater to everyone’s unique preferences.​
  • Continuous Learning and Feedback: Training shouldn’t be a one-time event. Follow up with employees through refresher courses, microlearning sessions, and regular feedback opportunities. This helps reinforce learning and ensures that training remains relevant as job roles and industry standards evolve
  • Role-Specific Training: Design training sessions to address the specific roles and responsibilities of different job positions within the organization. Taking a targeted approach ensures that each employee receives the most relevant and effective training for their particular needs.​

3) Creating a Collaborative Culture

Increasing collaboration in a multigenerational workforce creates opportunities to learn from diverse experiences and perspectives, which enhances productivity and innovation. However, promoting interaction across different age groups can also help reduce stereotypes. Below are two great examples of actions that can be taken to foster greater collaboration among different age groups and promote a more harmonious work environment:

Group Knowledge Sharing

Create opportunities for employees from different generations to share their expertise and learn from each other. For example, you might host a monthly meeting and invite a speaker to present on a subject relevant to the organization’s work or of personal interest. This is just one great way to encourage participation and discussion, while simultaneously promoting a culture of continuous learning.

Cross-Generational Mentorship

Consider implementing a mentorship program that pairs younger employees with more experienced ones and vice versa. For example, General Electric (GE) has a program where experienced Baby Boomers are paired with younger Millennial employees to facilitate knowledge transfer. This mentorship arrangement allows for the sharing of institutional knowledge and industry expertise from the older generation, while younger employees can introduce fresh perspectives and newer technologies.

Creating opportunities for cross-generational mentoring and learning not only enhances skills but also fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation among employees of different ages. By establishing formal mentorship programs, organizations can pair younger employees with more experienced ones, facilitating a direct transfer of knowledge, insights, and professional wisdom. Your organization can structure these programs to focus on specific career paths or more general business acumen, depending on its goals and the workforce’s needs. Most importantly, it’s critical to acknowledge that all generations have something new to learn from one another!

Managing a multigenerational workforce is an ongoing process that requires flexibility, openness, and a commitment to inclusivity. And, building a unified company culture that emphasizes inclusivity and respect for all generational groups involves acknowledging different needs and preferences. It calls for a commitment from the top down. However, even the most well-intentioned of organizations have blind spots. Be sure to read Combating Ageism: 4 Key Strategies for Employers for additional best practices on how to strengthen your team!

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