Is your organization equipped to manage a multigenerational workforce?
A recent Deloitte study says most likely not: The study found that while 70% of organizations surveyed said leading multigenerational workforces would be important or very important for their success over the next year, only 6% said their team leaders were equipped to effectively manage one.
The workforce is currently experiencing its most age-diverse time in history. Having an age-diverse staff has incredible benefits—such as increased productivity and better problem solving, just to name a couple—but it also comes with a number of challenges around motivation and communication.
It is up to team leaders to overcome those challenges and cultivate a healthy, inclusive, and productive environment for employees of all ages. Read on for some common problems faced by multigenerational workforces and best practices for overcoming them.
Generational differences & defining characteristics
Not every individual born in a certain generation will fit within the broad, defining characteristics of that generation. However, understanding these defining characteristics can still help us understand the priorities, motivations, and communication styles of each generation.
Traditionalists (born before 1945): Individuals are retiring later these days and many high-ranking positions are currently held by members of this generation. "Traditionalists" tend to be loyal team players who appreciate structure and stability. This generation heavily relies on real-time verbal communication.
Baby Boomers (1946-1964): While they are likely to stay within the same professional field, Boomers are more keen on switching employers than Traditionalists. They tend to focus on individual performance and are driven by their incentive to climb the organizational ladder. They value in-person work settings and their preferred mode of communication is email.
Generation X (1965-1976): Members of Gen X are beginning to replace Boomers in managerial positions and are more independent than their predecessors. They tend to desire flexibility in the workplace and they embrace technology to boost productivity and facilitate communication.
Millennials (1977-1995): This generation is the driving force of today's workplace. Driven by a sense of purpose and continual learning, they tend to crave interaction, feedback, and collaboration. This generation prefers to communicate electronically through texting, direct messages, and social media over phone calls.
Generation Z (1996 and after): This generation is just beginning to enter the workforce, but is the largest, most ethnically diverse cohort in the US population. They are driven by impact and social responsibility and appreciate communication technology that provides a personal experience, like video conferencing.
Challenges of age diversity– and suggestions to overcome them
Given these distinct preferences and perspectives, it can be difficult to foster a culture that empowers all employees, regardless of age.
BUT, if you know what challenges to expect, you can ensure your team reaps the benefits of a multigenerational workforce, such as diversity of skill sets, experience, and perspective.
Here are three common problems faced by multigenerational teams and recommendations for overcoming them:
1. Stereotypes and discrimination
As with any type of diversity, discrimination around age can occur in the workplace and can be geared toward any generation. Older generations might perceive younger people as entitled and oversensitive, while younger employees might assume that their older colleagues are close-minded and stubborn. These overarching generalizations stem from negative stereotypes and can easily toxify a company's culture.
Within the workplace, ageism can exist in very subtle ways through comments like 'okay boomer' or 'snowflake'. Many of us have heard microaggressions and comments on a mature employee's inability to use technology or a younger employee's inexperience or inadequacy. These comments are often overlooked and are not as easily classified as insensitive or discriminatory like racist or sexist comments might be.
Educating yourself and your employees on generational issues boosts understanding, respect, and productivity. Give your team the opportunity to reflect on the differences of each generation, and how they ultimately lead to strengthening the unit as a whole. Working toward dispelling stereotypes can lead to a more harmonious work flow.
2. Shifting needs
As time passes, our priorities, concerns, and qualities change. The Kaleidoscope Career Model suggests that there are three different things we care about in our professional careers: challenge, balance, and authenticity. As we age, the degree to which we care about each of these factors shifts and evolves. For example, junior level employees tend to value challenge over balance and authenticity, while middle-aged employees tend to value balance over challenge. Authenticity is more highly desired as individuals approach their retirement years, but it is also valued greatly by young entrepreneurs.
Understand what motivates your employees and support them at all stages of their professional career. Flexible, generation sensitive policies can also lead to greater retention, because individuals will feel supported throughout their career and will not have to leave a company to seek a job that will fulfill their needs.
- Create flexible benefit packages that can be tailored to each individual's needs. Benefit preferences reflect the different values and stages of life each generation is experiencing. Millennials and Gen Z employees tend to value student loan relief, while Baby Boomers Gen Xers put retirement plans and health insurance at the top of their benefit wish-list.
- Foster lifelong learning by encouraging professional and personal development for employees of all ages. This can be done by offering internal trainings, online courses, and tuition reimbursement for employees throughout every stage of their career. Supporting career development heightens motivation among employees of all ages and encourages collaboration and initiative.
Communication style, tone, and method can differ between generations, which can lead to misunderstandings. With the availability of email, messaging applications, phone calls, and video conferences, there are plenty of modes of communication to choose from.
Because each generation introduces a new means of communication, it is important that information be shared effectively, especially to those employees who are not as tech-savvy as the rest. Get to know your team and decide the best way to connect with them individually and collectively. With the right insights, you can give individuals the right tools to maximize productivity and help the team communicate and collaborate more effectively.
- Keep in mind that younger employees may prefer to receive information digitally, while employees from earlier generations may be accustomed to printed materials and in-person interactions.
- Create mentoring opportunities that are mutually beneficial. Leverage the knowledge and wisdom of senior employees to help mentor and advise younger ones. Reverse-generational mentoring puts junior employees in the mentor seat, and allows them to help more mature individuals with their literacy in technology and current trends. Who knows, your company might go viral from a company-wide TikTok challenge.
The solutions to the challenges and complexities that come with managing (and working on) a multigenerational team are not one-size-fits all. However, understanding the needs and priorities of each generation and finding ways to attend to them is a crucial first step in moving the needle toward feeling better equipped to lead an age-diverse team.
Click here to learn more ways to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Learn more about our amazing speakers and sponsors at our May 2021 virtual summit Diversity Reboot: Financial Inclusion, three days of conversations and panels plus an interactive virtual career fair.
Our Financial Inclusion summit was money in the bank! PowerToFly was thrilled to present talks from diverse leaders not only in banking and finance but also on philanthropy, fundraising, crypto currency, personal wealth management, taxes, DEI initiatives and so much more. If you tuned in, thank you! And if you missed the summit or would like to re-watch any of the talks, those conversations will all be available to watch for free on PowerToFly.
Finally, registration for our June 8 - 11th virtual summit Diversity Reboot: Pride at Work is now open! Join us to celebrate and learn from LGBTQ+ leaders. Register for free here.
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6 Tips for Companies & 5 Tips for Individuals from Indeed's Group VP of ESG, LaFawn Davis
Earlier this month, LaFawn Davis, Indeed's Group Vice President of Environmental, Social, & Governance, joined us as part of our Diversity Reboot Summit to talk about the 'shecession' experienced by many women, and especially women of color, as a result of COVID-19.
LaFawn shared some great tips for companies and individuals looking to be part of "the great rehiring." If you're looking to find a new role, or to ensure that you help bring back diverse talent displaced by COVID, check out her advice below, and catch her complete talk here or by clicking the video above!
Q: What would your advice be to companies that are looking to step up their diverse hiring in 2021?
My advice: Good intentions are no longer good enough. Nobody wants to hear what you meant to do, wish you could have do, intended to do. Nobody wants to hear that you can't find Black Women or any other dimension of diversity. We're obviously out here.
My squad and I have a saying "Impact over intentions." So, if 2020 was the year of good diversity and inclusion intentions, let's make 2021 the year of actions and impact.
So, now that we got that out of the way. If you're looking to step up your diverse hiring. Stop and get your house in order. Because you shouldn't just want to hire a diverse workforce, you should want to grow and keep them too. So there are 5 things, ready?
1. Focus on long-term systemic change.
There's a lot of momentum — and need — for change right now. It's not just about a message of support or donating to a cause one time. Take a look at your own systems. How do you hire and grow employees? Do your succession planning, talent reviews, recruiting and other processes have built-in biases? Is equality part of your core values? Are you actively working toward change? Recognize that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. Above all, hold yourself accountable for the way things are, then work to improve.
2. Take a close look at your data.
Share it internally to be transparent with employees of where you are now. When possible, share it externally to be visible and accountable (I'm happy to announce that Indeed will be releasing its own diversity data this summer). Use it as a baseline for comparison against what you hope to achieve.
3. Change behavior.
Focus on behavioral changes throughout the company with an emphasis on coaching, training, and having crucial conversations with managers. Leaders and managers set an example for the entire workforce. If employees see the behavior of managers or leaders in a negative light, a true sense of belonging is difficult to achieve.
4. Representation matters.
If leadership roles are perceived as exclusive to many members of the workforce, then a broader sense of belonging will continue to elude many employees. People in leadership roles should reflect the diversity of a company's workforce. Observing someone "like me" in a leadership role helps attract and retain talent and motivates workers to pursue roles with greater responsibility.
5. Create Policies And Procedures Reflective Of The Entire Workforce.
As you work through new or existing policies and procedures, be aware of barriers experienced by different populations. Take, for example, the case of caregivers. More scheduling flexibility for calls can go a long way for employees who share their home workspace with others and must tend to family responsibilities while working remotely.
Q: Do you have advice for individuals that are looking for new career opportunities, especially women of color who might have lost their previous jobs during the pandemic?
Adaptability has always been an important part of an individual's career progression - even before COVID-19, it is especially important now.
It is important to show a potential new employer how your abilities adapt to a new role or a new industry. Focus on skills more than just experiences because skills can be applied in so many different ways. So… I'll give you 6 things for this one.
1. Perform a professional audit. Taking some time to understand your qualities, qualifications and values can help focus your career transition and narrow down your career path options if you haven't already. Doing so can also help you understand how you might position yourself during the job search.
2. Identify your hard and soft skills. Soft skills are often the most transferable, so identifying them early can help you understand the ways you might bring value to a new role or industry. Taking inventory of your hard skills will help you identify if there are certain industries that might be easier to transition into.
3. Highlight your biggest career wins. Communicating the impact you've made throughout your career can help employers quickly understand the value you'll bring to their organization, even if you come from another role or industry.
4. Utilize online job search to your advantage. Pay close attention to the requirements and duties of jobs so you can evaluate whether the career would align with your skills, interests and values.
5. You just need to meet "most" of the qualifications. Try to focus on positions for which you meet at least 60% of the qualifications with your transferable skills. Meeting 60% of the qualifications isn't a hard rule, but it's a good general guideline to help you determine whether it's worth applying for.
6. Get a sense of the company. Before interviews, do some research to learn how inclusive a company is. Peruse the organization's core values, its social media accounts, and any recent statements in support of marginalized groups. Pay attention to the interviewers themselves. Is the panel diverse or are you likely to be an early "diversity hire"? If the interviewers seem to be emphasizing "cultural fit," ask what that means. Basically, be an active participant in the hiring process. You are also interviewing the company, as much as they are interviewing you.
This past February, PowerToFly was very proud to wrap up the panel portion of our recent Diversity Reboot 2021: The 100 Day Kickoff virtual summit by presenting our very first Diversity & Inclusion Award Show, honoring some true D&I champions across multiple industries
Back in 2020, we launched a submission process to honor select individuals who just don't talk the talk but truly walk the walk when it comes to making their companies and the world a more diverse and inclusive place. From the many submissions that we received, we chose six champions to honor.
You can watch the acceptance speeches for our honorees below or click here to watch the 45-minute awards show which included a roundtable discussion with our six DEI champions.
Want to nominated a friend or colleague for a future D&I Award? Submit their info here.
Jossie - Power to fly acceptance speech www.youtube.com
Calicia - Power to fly acceptance speech youtu.be
Dr Anjali Nigam - Power to fly acceptance speech youtu.be
Anto - Power to fly acceptance speech youtu.be
Morgan - Power to fly acceptance speech youtu.be
Joe Gomez - PowerToFly acceptance speech youtu.be