The workforce today is more diverse than it’s ever been. As experts in team building and leadership development, the team at New Quest Coaching & Consulting has seen this evolution take place before our eyes. For the first time, we have four generations leading, managing and working alongside each other. Shaped by cultural, social and economic differences, each cohort has a wildly different approach to work. It’s critical for leaders to learn (and educate their staff on) how to interact with a diverse workforce.
Multigenerational workforces have a competitive edge: they benefit from broader perspectives, healthy debate and increased capacity for innovation. But that’s only if leaders play to each group’s strengths and weaknesses, and encourage collaboration between all ages.
As experts in leadership coaching and team building, we’ve helped organizations streamline their communication and adapt their working styles to meet the needs of their increasingly diverse teams. Here’s how to enhance your workplace to appeal to the many generations working today to attract and retain top talent.
Working styles, communication preferences and attitudes towards work vary drastically between generations. While Baby Boomers tend to be workaholics who glorify long hours, millennials see work as a way to have a global impact. Gen Xers were once called the laziest generation of all time, but the youngest members of our workforce — Gen Z — have earned the title of most ambitious yet.
Each group brings its own unique strengths and weaknesses to the office. To improve engagement and retention, leaders need to create opportunities for people to thrive within their wheelhouses. Boomers are natural leaders who enjoy mentoring others, so give them opportunities to lead workshops or projects. For millennials and Gen Z, it’s all about collaboration — creating space for them to work together towards goals will matter most.
Based on age alone, Boomers (and many Gen Xers) are more likely to have been in the same career for a long time. But their loyalty to one company or job goes much deeper than age: they’re resistant to change.
As post-Depression kids, it makes sense that Boomers feel safest with stability; they watched their parents’ struggles, so they’re less likely to job hop, give up a steady paycheck or make risky career moves. But in the current work landscape, stagnancy isn’t an option — and their slower pace doesn’t always sit well with their younger colleagues.
Millennials and Gen Z grew up in a fast-paced world with rapid technological development. Because of this, they’re not only highly adaptive — they crave change. While Boomers live by the phrase “that’s how we’ve always done it,” the younger generations are ready and willing to say “who cares?”
Understanding where each generation comes from will better enable you to cater to their diverse needs. Rather than pushing change on older employees, introduce developments gradually and with patience. Better yet, give younger, more tech-savvy groups the opportunity to play teacher and share their knowledge of the modern world.
No generation is superior to any other. Each has valuable insights and ideas that are unique to their experience. Boomers and Gen X have time under their belts, while millennials and Gen Z have a more thorough grasp of current technologies. Organizations can benefit from this diverse knowledge by creating opportunities for cross-generational learning.
Gen Z is the first generation that has never known a world without technology or near-universal access to the internet. Boomers, however, know how to thrive by keeping things simple. They’ve been around the block, so to speak, and they’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Giving each generation the chance to teach — and to learn from — each other will make them feel valued and respected.
There’s space for both traditional and new perspectives in the modern workplace. The key is to understand, leverage and encourage each generation’s strengths. From Boomers to Gen X to Millennials to Gen Z, we have a lot to learn from each generation that came before us — and from each that will come after.
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