For the first time in history, five generations are working alongside one another.
This is mostly due to two factors: More graduates are foregoing college to enter the workforce earlier and more employees are delaying retirement. This leads to a wide variety of skill sets, backgrounds, outlooks, communication styles and approaches on one team.
Managed well, these differences can equal benefits. Not well, and they can lead to division on your team.
Consider these stats about the state of today’s teams:
It’s easy to see how generations at both ends of the spectrum could want to throw up their hands when working cross-generationally, but the key is seeing how these generations are really more alike than different.
By leveraging the unique strengths of each generation and being honest about potential weaknesses, working multi-generationally can end up being your team’s superpower.
How to Work Well Cross-Generationally
In our Working Across Generations podcast episode, Strategy Consultant Mary Beth Ormiston said, “Research is telling us that the more we put people together who are different and let them learn from each other, the easier it becomes. Employers are learning this can be the best of both worlds. Pairing employees who have institutional knowledge with employees who see things differently can be very powerful.”
With that in mind, here are three ways to make a multi-generational team an advantage.
Find Common Ground
Focus on what aligns the generations. Team members working in the same department for the same organization likely share an interest in the field. They also likely have common goals for improving operational efficiency and team morale and want to provide good customer service. Everyone wants to be useful and do good work. Start there.
See Opportunities to Learn
No matter the age, everyone’s a student and a teacher. Each generation having a different perspective or approach can actually work for your team and lead to great accomplishments. Everyone has knowledge to offer, and everyone has a gap in their education. See where the strengths are on your team and take turns leading and learning.
Be on the same team. When people feel understood and valued, morale improves and the doorway for communication opens. Look for where you can listen to better understand your team members and help them instead of dismissing them. Work with, not against, other generations to get everyone’s skills up to par rather than create more divide.
Make having a cross-generational team work for you with these tips, and for more help, check out our Navigating the Changing Workforce guide.