January 28, 2023

Working together as a multi-generational team isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Individuals of different generations often have different sets of values ​​and different methodologies for approaching work. They may also prefer to use different software to support their respective working styles. The uncommunicated or misunderstood disparity of ideals can cause friction that can lead to serious conflict between individuals or entire teams. And organizational breakdowns can leave a lasting impression on a team’s culture that lingers like a thorny ghost.

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If you feel like your team is approaching such a rift, take heart. It’s not a fate your team is tied to, as many multi-generational teams have found ways to collaborate effectively. Because at the end of the day, people are fundamentally more similar than they are different. Throughout history, people of diverse interests and backgrounds have overcome their differences to achieve great things. Here are five ways your team can overcome multigenerational differences to collaborate more effectively.

1. Discuss values

One of the biggest hurdles for multi-generational teams to overcome is the difference in value. People see the world through their own lens and unconsciously apply their values ​​to everything they look at. Take three different people who see the same object – a stick lying on the ground of a wood, for example. A child might see the stick as a makeshift sword, while an ecology student might see the forces of decomposition at work over time. A third person, a seasoned dog trainer, may see the stick as a great tool to use for training.

Not only your age, but also your role strongly influences the way you perceive the world. And, as it happens, older team members are usually in senior positions, with younger ones in junior positions, but not always. Multi-generational teams can struggle to collaborate due to mixed perceptions, unspoken value differences, and imbalanced power dynamics. It is therefore important to ensure that your organization creates space for ongoing value conversations among team members. Set aside time to explicitly discuss company values ​​and give members a platform to voice their goals and concerns appropriately.

2. Continuous training

While many people and teams may have the best intentions, that doesn’t mean they will always communicate effectively. It can be difficult to translate exactly how you feel into speech that is intelligible, considerate, and persuasive. The ideals and perceptions of many people are linked to their linguistic perceptions. If someone does not have the right language, they may find it difficult to understand a certain concept. On the other hand, some outdated languages ​​can cripple a person’s ability to absorb new information because it doesn’t fit their previous paradigm.

Fortunately, there are diversity and inclusiveness training programs aimed at helping people break down outdated designs and incorporate new ones. You may find that some people are reluctant to undergo such a program. However, it is important to ensure that your organization includes an increasingly diverse workforce. Cultural differences will come into conflict if there is not enough scaffolding and workplace support established in advance. Additionally, continuing education facilitates a work environment of curiosity, growth, and lifelong learning.

3. Inclusive link

Another reason multi-generational team members may struggle is that they haven’t bonded enough. There are tons of different ways to build links, both positive and negative, but you’ll probably want to focus on the first one. Negative bonding occurs when people share the experience of endured adversity together without appreciating what has been learned that has been beneficial to both parties. A positive connection occurs when people share uplifting, moving and joyful experiences, generating positive momentum that drives teams forward. Both experiences can be conducive to helping teams collaborate, but negative connections can generate internal and lasting rifts between the parties.

So it’s best to focus on creating positive bonding experiences for your team whenever you can. Holiday parties and company retreats are classic examples of workplace experiences designed to foster positive connections. However, in the case of multi-generational teams, it can be more difficult to hit the mark of what everyone will agree is a good time. So, just like a values ​​discussion, ask your team members what they would like to do by putting it to a vote. A democratic outcome may be more acceptable because people will generally tolerate, if not like, what the majority voted on.

4. Embrace new working styles and software

In addition to boosting team collaboration through socializing, it’s also important to approach the problem from a practical perspective. The way teams actually work together has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Especially with the advent of the global pandemic of 2020, remote work has become more ubiquitous than ever. And whether or not you’re personally a fan of remote work, the reality is that many people are looking and will continue to look for opportunities that support it. The inclusion of remote workers is just one example of the kinds of different styles you may need to consider on a day-to-day basis.

Using the right software will help establish ongoing team collaboration. Besides email, there are a myriad of communication channels, video conferencing, gaming platforms, and other software that facilitate diverse office cultures. Even if your team is entirely local, using simple software like synced team calendars can make a big difference in working together. It is important to note here that some generations may have more difficulty than others with new technologies. So be sure to encourage younger generations to be patient and cultivate helpful mindsets.

5. Update your employee value proposition

The disparity in benefits can be a real sticking point for many people. Part of how valued employees are and how valued they feel is measured by what they are offered. When employees feel like everyone is valued equally, or at least appropriately for their position, collaboration is easier. Being valued appropriately increases the respect people feel for one another, and respect greases the wheels of social interaction. Make sure your employee value proposition (EVP) reflects the people who actually work at your company.

What type of TEUs do you offer your millennial employees versus your baby boomer employees? Are there benefits that different generations can share or is there too much disparity? Employee wellness programs that focus on establishing a healthy work-life balance tend to appeal to many generations. However, long-term investment programs and frequent social events may appeal to some more than others. When dealing with multi-generational teams, be sure to meet different needs and wants with an appropriate range of benefits.

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One of the biggest difficulties that arise between people in multigenerational teams is the disagreement that comes from having different values. Your team will likely come into conflict if individuals are unable to effectively communicate their views to each other. Diversity and inclusion training will help increase the communication literacy of your team members. Facilitate respect between generations by educating people to use a common language — and common sense.

Likewise, encourage your teams to work together on the same platforms. There are many workflow software available these days that make workflow pipelines more visible than ever. Providing appropriate perks will help your team members feel valued. Having a diverse, multi-generational team doesn’t mean everyone has to be exactly the same. More so, it’s about making sure everyone feels respected and heard from each other.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by RODNAE Productions; pexels; Thanks!

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