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Never has there been more generations represented in the workforce at the same time than right now. You've got vets, boomers, x-ers, and millennials. I think it's fair to say that getting all these different generations working effectively together, will be one of the biggest talent management challenges anyone faces in the next few years. Let me help you get started successfully leading across generations right now. Try these approaches and see which ones are most effective for you. Demand dialogue. Many times when members of different generations see values displayed at work that they don't understand they tend to close up, think unproductive thoughts and say nothing.
Your goal is to get people talking so you can shift from thinking in terms of right and wrong towards thinking in terms of interesting differences, thinking about a diversity of values in work styles that can increase team creativity. Look for differences in work attire, professional habits and language skills and learn to talk about them and even laugh about them. Anyway you cut it more dialogue is better than less. Next, create coaches at every level. Within each generation there will be able bodied employees willing to serve as coaches to members of other generations.
Think of it this way, everyone has age related core competencies. For example, a millennial can educate a boomer on tech issues and a boomer can share experience and wisdom with younger employees. Start looking for these coaches and competencies now, so that you can begin to use these differences as valuable assets instead of conversation killers. Also, consider using shared goals. If you want employees to build productive bridges across generations, give them an incentive.
Make sure your evaluation and compensation systems support this goal. Shared goals are a great example. When the team knows that they'll be partially evaluated based on how the overall team performs, they have a strong reason to proactively build better relationships with everyone, regardless of which generation they represent. My last suggestion is about your need to be flexible. First, you have to be flexible in your approach to leadership. For example, by communicating a little differently across generations, even though it can be tough, you must realize that one size does not fit all.
You'll also benefit from allowing flexibility in terms of how your employees get the work done. Older employees like rigid, 9-to-5 office hours more, whereas younger workers often prefer more flexibility in choosing hours. Try to worry a little more about defining great outcomes and a little less about dictating the process for achieving the outcomes. So, are these increasing generational gaps a challenge or an opportunity? The more you follow guidelines like these, the more you'll recognize the opportunity they represent.
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