Most of the discussion over generation gaps in the world today tends to lack subtlety, as certain catchy phrases dominate social media. In reality, someone who runs a successful business will likely be dealing with people from multiple generations and have to figure out how to speak effectively to people outside their demographic. More often than not, there is no huge issue causing conflict between team members from different generations, just a simple miscommunication.
But not addressing these conflicts can easily slow down your business, causing gridlock or a hostile work environment. It can undermine team unity if one or both parties feel disrespected or silenced. Diversity makes an office stronger, and that applies to age and generations as much as anything else. Both the younger and older workforce have a lot to offer the business world today, so it’s key to use a few simple techniques to bridge those generation gaps before they undermine your team. Here’s how to bridge generational gaps in your business.
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Implement Collaborative Training
Too often, businesses lose sight of the fact that learning is an ongoing process. Team members get training when they come in, but if there isn’t ongoing training as the business develops, it’s easy for processes to become outdated. Another mistake is treating training as an individual process – often done over the computer from home or an office desk. Training is much more effective when done as a collaborative process.
Not only does this give the team the opportunity to learn from each other, but it’s likely some people will excel in an area where others might struggle. This gives those team members from different generations the chance to share their wisdom with others.
Provide a Variety of Communication Channels
People from different generations communicate differently. Forms of communication like faxes and even phone calls that were commonplace for older workers may be confusing or frustrating for Gen Z employees. Likewise, if a business communicates heavily through texting, it’s likely some older team members may get lost in the shuffle.
It’s important to balance your communication options so people can find their own ideal method. Some older workers may be familiar with face-to-face meetings, but much of that can be transferred to Zoom with the proper training. A cloud PBX system, which transfers all your communication methods under one cloud-based platform hosted by a third party, can usually combine most new and older communication methods in one location, so no one misses a notification.
Don’t assume you know what someone is capable of just because they come from a specific generation – and equally important, don’t let anyone else assume either. Stereotypes can take root in an office and lead to tension between team members as well as people being pigeonholed in a certain role that may not be the best fit for their talents. When allowed to grow out of control, it can create a toxic work environment that hurts productivity.
But this can have longer-term impacts than just harm to the current project. If employees find themselves constantly being stereotyped because of their age, they may lose interest in their job and seek employment elsewhere. If this is a consistent problem, it can be hard to attract and maintain talent, leading your business to lose ground to competitors. This is why it’s important to bridge the generation gap and make sure all team members are treated with respect.
Guard Against Age Segregation
If team members of a similar age cluster in one area of the business and isolate themselves, it’s very easy for age segregation to take root. This doesn’t mean you need to shuffle things around if the teams are working, but it is a reason to try to ensure all team members have the opportunity to get to know each other and benefit from exposure to different age groups and life experiences. It can be as simple as arranging occasional meetings or recreational activities for the whole team.
It’s common to have three or even four generations playing a role in a business. This is why it’s key to take advantage of that diversity of experiences. The key is making sure generational gaps don’t become more important than what your team has in common.