For the first time in history, the American workforce is comprised of five generations working together. While we often hear about conflict and disparities between different generations of workers, we often overlook the positive aspects of a multigenerational staff.
A staff composed of a mix of generations provides varying viewpoints to any problem or situation. It is important to encourage staff members of all generations to participate in strategic meetings and to provide input as much as possible. A variety of viewpoints will allow managers to approach problems from several different angles to arrive at the optimal solution. Encouraging input from both experienced and inexperienced employees will also keep everyone “bought in” to the solution and willing to work together to see the endeavor succeed. Basically, implementing ideas from the full spectrum of employees leaves each team member feeling engaged in the company’s future and culture.
Creating or encouraging the formation of heterogeneous groups or teams within your staff will result in optimal problem-solving and solution-making on a molecular level. These diverse groups will allow workers to “mentor” each other and create a new, multi-faceted company culture. In education, this phenomenon is known as Social Learning Theory and is used to frame ideas about student learning, but it easily applies to training a younger generation of employees using their more knowledgeable peers. Both Millennial and Generation Z workers tend to value consistent feedback, professional development, and constructive coaching from their work environment. What better way to provide this ideal environment than through capitalizing on what Social Learning Theory calls the “More Knowledgeable Other”? MKOs are employees capable of coaching inexperienced and eager-to-learn employees in things like company culture, client relations, and workflow. In some scenarios, the MKO can be an employee willing to coach his or her team regarding a certain technology. The key is knowing each employee’s strengths and fostering an environment that lets them learn from each other.
While it’s important to treat each employee as an individual when evaluating their strengths and what motivates them, sometimes it can be helpful to reference generational trends and how they change over time. Paying attention to and adapting to the differing motivations of a multigenerational workforce will have a positive effect on all employees, including management. Listening to all employees and showing open-mindedness and flexibility in management style will ensure a work environment that retains current employees and attracts the best future candidates as well.