Misconceptions, stereotypes and a lack of respect for other generations have further fueled the need for understanding each other. If we are going to be productive, we must know how to connect with each other.
This was a lesson that I had to learn once I started leading large groups of people. I often found younger leaders would pick up and follow me and older leaders would stubbornly stand their ground no matter how obvious it was that they needed to change. Once I learned what was important to each group, I was much more successful in engaging all of my leaders.
The chart above helps you with an empathetic view of the other generations you work with on a regular basis. Understanding general communication preferences and values can go along way in eliminating frustration and friction across generational lines.
I am a very driven leader that focuses on problem-solving and implementing change regardless of how things have always been done. My disconnect when leading seasoned baby-boomers for the first time was that I didn’t realize how much value they put on tenure and legacy. Once I learned my lesson, I changed my approach. I acknowledged their tenure, assigned them projects to showcase those skills in front of others, and framed all the changes through the lens of landing a great legacy at the company. Those changes made a world of difference.
Show them respect, include them in major change initiatives and frame them in a way that matters to them.
Gen X is the first generation to be chasers of work-life balance. I have found them to be very hard working but often missed out on promotions and potential because they were never developed in the right way. They were typically given very general feedback of, “Do better.” “Keep trying.” or nothing at all. I found that this group thrives by giving them practical steps to achieve their success. Don’t just tell them to do better. Tell them how to do better in a tangible way. Providing them with time management training and system efficiencies is very well appreciated. It shows you care for them outside of the workplace.
Certainly, a lot of material has been written about this group. This group is not nearly as loyal to a brand or company as the previous two generations. To engage with this group it’s essential that they feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their role and that the company is serving a larger purpose.
This group typically enjoys and appreciates being a part of a collaborative team and enjoy flexibility in how and where they work. Trust is key here in allowing non-traditional work practices into the culture if possible. I have yet to interact with an organization that went backwards after allowing flexible schedules when it made sense. Millennials also appreciate the freedom to try new things.
This group is just now making a significant impact in the workforce and will continue to grow in influence in the coming years. Growing up in a fully digital age has left many of these workers lacking soft skills essential for long term leader success. When I spent times with senior leaders for the Leaders of Atlanta podcast many cited this need as they see the newest generation entering the workforce.
Provide soft skills training and other opportunities to grow as a person as well. Mentoring groups in and outside the company are a great way to connect them to the older generation. They typically put a very high value on independence and social responsibility, so give them freedom with a safety net and provide them opportunities to give back to the community and the world so they are fulfilled.
Use some of these practical tips and knowledge to engage individually with people across generations. Your workforce will be more engaged and unified as you push towards your business goals.
Make a better tomorrow.