September 7, 2014 Multi-generational Teams – What’s Your Role? (As Published in the September/October edition of Onyx Magazine)
The moment we are born, we are defined by our gender. The words “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl” is the beginning of establishing roles and the setting of expectations. Your first article of clothing is either pink or blue (unless you have gender savvy parents, who dressed you in gender neutral colors of yellow, white or green). Upon entering the workforce, the same thing happens, not based on gender but on your defined generation. There are six generational categories, with four of those generations comprising today’s workforce. Today, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y co-exist in today’s work environment, bringing forth a diversity of behaviors which define how work is established and delivered. Members of the Silent Generation have exited the workforce: however, due to the economic crisis, many have returned in an advisory role or part time status.
Corporations are spending millions of dollars to train its leaders on how to manage and lead a multi-generational workforce, while employees struggle with forming meaningful work relationships with colleagues from a different generation. In spite of the efforts to bridge the generational divide, it appears that little progress is being made. There is great value in successfully managing the multi-generational workforce but there is a huge risk in labeling and placing a stereotype on any group or individuals that share common characteristics.
The benefit to you as an employee; whether as an individual contributor or a manager is in recognizing, valuing and harnessing the strengths of your colleagues.
Three tips to begin closing the generation gap are:
Engage in Peer Coaching: Peer coaching is a confidential process through which two or more professional colleagues work together to reflect on current practices; expand, refine, and build new skills.
Step out of your comfort zone: Try taking on a different way of work such as embracing technology if you prefer hands on or face to face communication; or if you prefer technology, incorporate more face to face dialog.
Conduct a personal SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities or threats) analysis and create action items that would promote cross generational collaboration.
Leading or operating in a multi-generational environment, may appear to be a conundrum; however, through minor adjustments and acceptance of the value of generational differences, you will soar!