Today’s workforce is comprised of five distinct generations: Traditionalists (born 1930 to 1942), Baby Boomers (1943 to 1964), Generation X (1965 to 1976), and Millennials (1997 and after). Each of these generations is characterized by unique preferences regarding work style, shifts and schedules, reporting methods, and expectations of management. Lack of understanding, respect and appreciation for the differences and value each generation brings into the workforce can lead to mistrust, breakdowns in communication, misalignment, and loss of company productivity.
Next Step’s Proven Formula to Engage Teams Across the Generations
Next Step has extensive experience optimizing teams through empowerment of millennials and intergenerational workforces for Cisco, Lilly, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, HP and other large and small organizations.
The first step is to provide each generation with new insights into the perspectives, needs, and expectations of counterparts. Increased awareness of the backgrounds and motivations of each group will reveal shared values and provide a foundation for trust.
Next, foster dialog throughout the company and within the executive team about the general differences in perspective. Focus should be given to ways in which each generation’s communication styles, work habits, and learning methods can best be leveraged to improve the organizations’ productivity and competitiveness.
Then, develop mentorship and collaboration programs and a culture of learning and development – across the generations. Millennials in particular thrive when coached, mentored and given the opportunity to take on new accountabilities and challenges. Finally, adapt your processes and organizational structure to enable all employees (across the generations) to work and communicate in the manner most comfortable to them whenever possible. By addressing the needs of the millennial generation, you can and will enhance the engagement and commitment of employees of all ages and generations.
Success Snapshot: Optimizing Communications Across Generations
In a notable breakthrough with one of our clients, Next Step created an effective method of communication between Baby Boomer managers and their Millennial employees.
The managers were from a generation where communications were traditionally conducted either face to face or over the phone. The managers’ Millennial team members, having grown up with digital communication, preferred instant messaging, texting, and e-mail.
Whether it was for simple or complex communications ‘battlelines were drawn’ with the managers’ calling the Millennials’ and demanding face to face or phone meetings then complaining when the millennials did not respond. The reality was the younger generation workers were intimidated and confused by the unexpected outreach. The result was lack of productivity, issues not resolved and breakdown of relationships.
Next Step’s team collaborated with the client to establish a process in which the manager would email the team member requesting a phone call or to schedule a meeting. It was agreed that each email request would include:
- Purpose of the call or meeting
- What is expected to prepare for the meeting
- What is anticipated to be the outcome or follow-up from the call or meeting
With this process in place, the millennials were able to prepare in advance for meetings and calls and the boomers able to communicate in the manner in which they are most comfortable. People of both generations were quite satisfied with the arrangement, productivity increased and the team was recognized by the organization as showing the greatest improvement in employee engagement scores within two quarters of implementation of the new arrangement.
If your organization is having cross-generational communications issues, consider an agreement in which a meeting / conversation is scheduled with a preliminary agenda, goals, and action items and/or things expected from the team members. The meetings can then be conducted face to face or via phone with preparation coordinated online.