Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers—these generations are vastly different. The world events and cultural touchstones they lived through are unique. Baby Boomers watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, while Gen X saw the Berlin Wall come down. For Gen X, the home microwave was a new invention, while millennials lined up for the iPhone.
These separate experiences have influenced each generation’s values and ways of doing things. Yet they still need to share the workplace. The challenge then comes for managers: How do you engage your employees when some value cutting-edge technology and others are resistant to change? Or when some prefer informality and others crave hierarchy?
The key is to leverage the differences in each generation. Each group can offer a wealth of knowledge and a fresh perspective, so take advantage of these characteristics and make them a cornerstone in your employee engagement strategy. Here are a few simple ways to get started.
Organize mentorship opportunities: Millennials are the digital natives; they intuitively understand technology and are always connected. Take advantage of this skill to encourage more cross-generational interaction. Younger employees can train others on new technologies and tools.
And, of course, the learning goes both ways. Gen X and Baby Boomer employees can mentor millennials with the experience they’ve gained through their longer careers. By recognizing each other’s strengths, these different groups can develop relationships and improve camaraderie.
Give everyone an equal voice: Regardless of age, employees want to feel like their voices and opinions are heard. Set up a regular meeting or online forum where members of your organization can present ideas, worries, or problems. Show employees across generations that you value their input—and at the same time, give them a chance to hear different perspectives and learn more about how their colleagues think.
Use flexible work schedules: The Monday-through-Friday 9-to-5 is a thing of the past. Offer different working options like telecommuting or irregular hours. What’s important is the results your employees produce, not how they get things done.
It’s true that nontraditional schedules are seen as a millennial thing. However, any employee who has young kids can see the value of leaving early to pick them up and then working from home. Or someone who often travels to meet clients might need to work off-site. Support each employee in their own best way to work.
Values like flexibility, open communication, and mutual learning encourage employee engagement across all generations. They also offer ways to bridge the generation gap by using their differences in ways that benefit everyone.
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