Don't Overlook Younger and Older Employees

Joe Weinlick
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Managing a multigenerational team isn’t easy. There’s often a clear divide between younger and older employees. Opinions differ on everything from work-life balance to company procedures. It’s easy to ignore generational differences, but it’s not beneficial. Don’t overlook younger employees because they lack experience or older employees because they are set in their ways. Instead, focus on the positive aspects that both generations bring to your team and help them learn from each other.

Older employees are often stereotyped. People assume that older workers lack speed, enthusiasm, and the technology skills that younger employees possess. Even if your older employees don’t grasp new procedures or technology quickly, they do have interpersonal skills and experience—two things younger workers often lack. By helping your employees find common ground and encouraging them to learn from each other, you create a team of well-rounded individuals that possess the best attributes from each generation.

The atmosphere you create for your team plays a huge role in bridging the age gap. Create a forum for your employees to share opinions and ideas. Older employees may not be comfortable with online forums, so consider holding a monthly brainstorming meeting. Make sure you encourage everyone to keep an open mind. Don’t overlook new ideas from younger employees or concerns of older employees. Discussing ideas openly and listening to concerns shows all your employees that their opinions are important, regardless of their age or the amount of experience they have.

Team mentoring programs help younger and older employees learn from each other. Millennials and Gen Xers thrive in environments where they have a voice, responsibilities and learning opportunities. They often get excited over new projects and are eager to learn new things. If you partner younger and older employees on new projects, the older employee helps keep the over-zealous youngster grounded and focused and the younger employee teaches his or her older associate how to embrace change.

Learning from other team members is easier when it’s clear who is doing the teaching and who is learning. Consider the strengths of each one of your team members and establish subject matter experts. Put younger people in charge of teaching other team members about software updates, new procedures and online communication. Older employees can teach younger employees about face-to-face communication, employee recognition and company policies.

Ultimately, your goal is to build and manage a successful team. Without communication and a mutual understanding it's hard for a multigenerational team to succeed. It's imperative that your team members learn how to work together. Ignoring the needs of one age group and favoring another isn’t an option. Your entire team benefits from overcoming generational differences, and it’s up to you to help younger and older employees understand and learn from each other.

 

(Photo courtesy of Ambro / freedigitalphotos.net)

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