As millennials continue to rapidly grow within the global workspace, discussions are going around about how age diversity will impact organizations in the coming years. And although there has been some perceived challenges (which I believe is calming down significantly) between millennials, generation X, and baby boomers, the three generations account for almost all of today’s workforce.
While the generation X employees may want to feature in this discussion, their numbers don’t play to their advantage. They may seem to have an instilled sense of the company’s mission and purpose, but it hasn’t worked to their benefit before. Only a few individuals in generation X hold top leadership positions in the corporate world. Additionally, they don’t even have enough workers in their generation to fill positions that will be left vacant when baby boomers retire.
The leadership gap conversation has always revolved around baby boomers and millennials since they have massive numbers in the current global workforce and seem to have healthy differences in approaches and perspectives. While the oldest members of the baby boomer generation have approached the retirement age, they were forced to delay their retirement when the economic crisis began. This meant they had to stay more years in their positions. The baby boomers take a traditional approach to work. They seem more dedicated to their roles, are ambitious, have clear goals, and don’t worry about life balance issues. They believe that waiting longer for promotion without the need for feedback is how it is supposed to be.
Millennials, on the other hand, tend to be time-conscious, seek more immediate gratification and count on fast promotion based on their quality of output and not the number of working hours or years they have been in the company. They are also more accustomed to recognition and attention (ironically, this was what boomers provided), healthy working conditions, and favor flexibility. They also tend to want a particular kind of relationship with managers, and seek more professional development, and are still ready to take any challenges head-on.
The different perspectives between various generations can create potential risks in a work environment, and it is up to the leaders and managers to create opportunities for all workers. The bugging question is how organizations develop and prepare millennials for leadership roles when the paradigm shifts.
According to PwC, millennials will account for more than 50% of the workforce by the end of 2020. Therefore, enterprises must create a robust strategy to attract, retain, and mentor millennials, as well as create a unified environment where they can be developed for future leadership roles. Companies should proactively embark on a quest to recruit talented employees into the entry and mid-level positions so that they grow and become high-impact, mission-driven leaders in the future.
How Can Managers Bridge the Generation Gap in the Workspace
Encourage Dialogue, Communication, and Maybe Use a Leadership Development Business Simulation
Workers from different generations prefer different modes of communication. Baby boomers feel like all communication should be face-to-face; Gen Xers prefer in-person and over the phone conversations; and the tech-savvy millennials would go for emails and texts any day. This means that management needs to provide employees with both formal and informal communication mediums.
Companies can encourage workers to move around the office and interact with individuals from another generation. This can help boost morale and get rid of negative assumptions when every worker gets to know the other person better. Organizations should also create opportunities for employees to brainstorm together and get acquainted on a personal level, whether it is in or out of the office.
Creating cross-generational mentorship programs can encourage employees to foster relationships and understand each other perspectives. In traditional mentorship programs, only those in top-level positions were required to provided mentorship and coaching. However, when trying to bridge the generation gap, organizations should create reverse mentorship programs that involve multi-directional conversations that benefit everyone involved.
Through this program, millennials and baby boomers are put together where they can share ideas and interact. This would, in turn, help them dissolved some preconceived notions that exist only in their heads. Reverse mentorship provides baby boomers with the chance to open up and learn more about the latest technologies. On their side, millennials get expert advice on things such as leadership, career development, and strategic thinking. The primary goal is for all participants to gain new skills and develop new view-points, while at the same time getting the chance to create meaningful relationships with individuals from a different generation.
Engage Both Generations Using a Business Leadership Simulation Game
Leadership development business simulation games can go a long way in creating a co-learning and collaborative learning environment. Leadership development simulations are used within many leadership development programs to enable training participants to learn and practice leadership, business acumen, strategic thinking, and more within an exciting and engaging hands-on experience. Both generations work together as a team and are able to teach each other existing and new approaches to problem solving. All of this is done within and engaging and safe environment. Business training simulations are a great way to engage both generations in a productive and exciting training program for all generations.
Define what Hard Work and Success Means in your Company
While it may seem like an easy thing to set the expectation of success for workers, it might be more challenging than you thought, considering that every generation has their different understanding of work and success.
For Baby boomers, they tend to believe that hard work means spending long hours every week in the office to finish a project. Since they joined the corporate world in a time where working at home was impossible, they are usually process-oriented.
Generation Xers are project-oriented. To them, hard work means completing their projects efficiently or earlier than expected. They believe that being successful is to have a healthy work-life balance.
As for the millennials, hard work is valued on the quality of their output, not necessarily by the number of hours they spent at their work station. They can work from anywhere, whether it is in a coffee shop, at home, or any other place. They define success as doing something that attracts positive feedback from managers and coworkers.
While all these models are all positive and correct, they can bring problems if some works tend to perceive that the management is favoring one. The top leadership must find a way to get rid of any ambiguity and establish a clear expectation of what hard work and success means.
From this write-up, it is vividly clear that organizations that fail to adapt to generational change risk facing inter-organization conflict and widening leadership gap in the future. Understanding the unique attributes of each generation will help you enhance team-based productivity, as well as identify, hire, retain, and groom new talents that will take up the mantle when baby boomers are nowhere to be seen.
Encouraging multi-directional mentorship, setting expectations for success’ and encouraging dialogue could help bridge the generational gap and help you retain and develop future leaders in an inclusive and homogeneous work-based culture. Finally, like many large companies, utilizing business simulations for leadership development can have a fast and deeply positive impact on leadership and leadership development.