Bridging generational gaps in business

Post by Capsim
June 16, 2015

It’s an interesting time to be in business today, as there are sometimes three generations working together to fulfill corporate goals. Part of maintaining a healthy career plan for employees is creating an atmosphere where many types of people can feel confident in their work and stay productive. However, when things aren’t so harmonious, age difference is usually a go-to excuse.

“When there are differences, we tend to blame problems on age,” David Maxfield, co-author of “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High”, explained to Fast Company. “It’s a convenient villain and lets us off the hook for doing anything because we can’t change someone’s age.”

“Every generation values and communicates business goals differently.”

Managing these age-related pain points is crucial for the health of your business, especially in an era when technology is reshaping the office environment. According to Fast Company, generational stereotyping causes 1 in 3 workers to squander around five hours of work every week due to conflicts. Not only does this create a negative atmosphere in the workplace, but it also stifles productivity on all fronts.

Managers and the C-suite need to find ways to bring these three age groups (baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials) together, and it starts by clearly stating what the business’s goals are.

Creating consensus through collaboration
Every generation values and communicates business goals differently. For instance, baby boomers might be used to more personal contact in a workplace setting, such as face-to-face meetings. However, Gen Xers and millennials have been immersed in technology for most of their lives and prefer communicating via instant message, social media or other online platforms.

Values can also vary widely due to generation gaps. Baby boomers are used to a hierarchical business structure that rewards individuals through promotions, while millennials typically like to receive immediate praise or feedback for their work.

Using generational differences as a business advantage
The great thing about having a multigenerational office is these age groups can teach one another valuable skills that could bolster business success. According to Entrepreneur, experienced baby boomers can do this by mentoring younger workers about the industry, Gen Xers can act as a bridge between younger and older businesspeople, while millennials can educate the business about tech tools. Not only does this create more connected business teams, but is also encourages diversity.

Create an environment where all generational voices can be heard.Create a business environment where all generational voices can be heard.

Value in multigenerational communication
It is also crucial that these individuals communicate to erase generational stereotypes and rally around common goals. People from different generations might have completely different expectations about business decisions, so it is always good to get all of these ideas on the table.

“We live in a culture where people don’t confront each other. It’s fight or flight,” Maxfield explained in Fast Company. “When we’re concerned, we often go to silence and then the problem builds up. When we do speak up, we speak with anger.”

It is also important for different age groups to listen to one another. Remind everyone that they are on the same team – encourage dialogue, but also keep these conversations open so all generational voices are heard.

Having different generations bring their unique perspectives to the business environment can be a positive if the right tools and communication are offered and encouraged.

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