“A divided country” is a prevalent theme in America today, and simultaneously many business leaders find the need for their employees to work well together has never been more important – or perhaps more challenging.
For the first time in modern history, the workforce consists of four and sometimes five generations within a single company. That age/experience difference can lead to varied ways of looking at things – and also varied ways in which co-workers perceive those from another generation. Research by firms that explore office interaction reveals generation gaps in areas such as communication style, goals, adaptation to change and technical skills.
Bosses face the challenge of how to bridge these differences.
“It starts with dropping the stereotypes,” says Sue Hawkes, a leadership expert and author of "Chasing Perfection: Shatter the Illusion, Minimize Self-Doubt & Maximize Success." “Belief in generational stereotypes limits your ability to harness the best from everyone at the table. A company’s leader can learn how to unlock potential from all generations by engaging everyone around shared values.”
Hawkes gives four tips on how business leaders can get employees in a multi-generational company to work well together through effective communication:
“The research and conversations about generations tend to focus on the differences,” Hawkes said. “Millennials, for instance, get a bad rap in the working world, like they have an inflated sense of entitlement. Yet research shows they share some traits with entrepreneurs.”
“Don’t assume people you’re mentoring haven’t asked a question because they already know the answer,” Hawkes said. “Be proactive and make daily check-ins a habit. It gives them a chance to air thoughts and ask questions.”
“Some people are put off by a new or younger employee’s need to know the why for the things they’re asked to do,” Hawkes said. “Once rules and methods are explained as connections to success, everybody moves forward with a renewed purpose.”
“I challenge the belief that any generation can be categorized and generalized in behavior,” Hawkes said. “We can move from seeing the barriers between us to a place of common ground and opportunity, doing so with courageous and open conversations expanding on what each person brings to the table.”
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