7 Challenges Faced by Leaders of Multigenerational Organization

Is Your Workplace Environment Conducive to Collaboration?

As younger employees join your workforce and older employees remain employed for longer, your organization is likely to become more multigenerational. This diversity of age demographic presents leaders with many challenges that must be overcome. In this article, we examine seven of these challenges.

1. Age

There are many personal challenges associated with age, and these manifest in the workplace. Younger employees may desire more flexibility and the opportunity to work from home. Older employees may have more exacting wellness needs. Leaders should create the flexible workplace environment that addresses the needs of all employees.

2. Values

Our values are determined by many factors, including upbringing and experiences. Older generations have lived through the Cold War and economic strife. They were raised by parents who suffered war. They took part in civil rights movements. Younger generations have been at the forefront of technological advance, and are living with a future shaped by climate change.

Baby boomers expect millennials to have the same commitment to hard work and long hours. Millennials expect more flexibility and shorter hours in the office with greater autonomy. Leaders must manage these conflicting values, respecting all workers and helping each to understand and accept the different ways in which full contributions are made.

3. Workplace Relationship Issues

Older employees tend to be more conservative in their approach to workplace relationships. They have been conditioned that work is work, and personal issues should be left at the door. However, today mental health and wellbeing is considered of great importance. Employees are encouraged to discuss a wider range of issues, and organizations accept the overlap between personal and professional lives more readily. This can create friction between employees, as some wish to discuss subjects that others consider to be taboo.

Organisations are combatting this challenge by providing ‘safe spaces’ where controversial subjects may be discussed openly, and equipping managers with the skills to carefront rather than confront conflict between work colleagues.

4. Feedback

The need for feedback differs between generations. Younger employees tend to thrive on constant feedback, whereas older workers require less. For older employees, feedback should be given when necessary, not when desired.  

How does a leader know how often to give feedback? Ask each employee, and set a schedule for them. Remember, though, that continuous communication leads to healthier relationships, and less confusion when honest truths are finally revealed.

5. Preferred Communication Styles

The communication preferences of different generations stretch from the millennials’ use of social media and digital communication channels, to the baby boomers’ desire for face-to-face conversation or email.

An organization must establish how best to communicate, and set a strategy that embraces all preferences. For example, a team meeting may be followed up by a video summary posted to employees’ email inboxes or on the company’s intranet.

6. Dress Code

Older workers are used to the formality of workwear. It helps them draw a line between their professional self and their personal self. Younger workers are more likely to wish to wear the same clothes in the office as they would outside. While many organizations have relaxed their dress code, many have not. This can cause conflict between employees and management.

While there is no single correct answer to dress code – often it is part of the DNA of an organization – it is important that, while a workplace may not have a uniform, workplace dress code is uniform and observed consistently by all.

7. Perceptions of Work Ethics

Older generations often accuse younger workers of having poor work ethics. However, perception of work ethic varies between generations. 

Older employees are more likely to remain at work until their work is complete before leaving for home. They see younger employees leaving before their work is complete and believe that this is indicative of a poor work ethic. However, these younger employees – often more digitally adept – may be working remotely from home, where they feel more relaxed and productive.

Organizations may combat these perceptions by managing by performance and introducing workplace project management systems to routine. Taking this action often helps people to work more collaboratively and understand that being office based is not always necessary to be productive.

In Summary

In multigenerational workplaces there is a wide diversity of values, preferred communication styles, mental wellbeing issues and preferred methods of working. Differences even stretch to how employees dress for work.

When leaders understand the different characters of each generation, they will more easily discover the strengths of each generation and use these to improve collaboration. To build a cohesive team, managers must create a workplace environment that allows all generations to contribute fully and embrace the qualities of their work colleagues.

Contact us today, and discover how we could help your managers and leaders be more effective in developing multigenerational teams and foster the collaboration that delivers high performance.

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