The working world has always been an amalgamation of various types of people. From racial background to social circle and age, there are numerous characteristics which make people unique, and they have become ever present across every industry. Because of this, the companies who oversee these varied groups of people have been given the interesting challenge of uniting them to secure a shared goal – corporate success. In recent years, this unique challenge has taken on additional variables due to the shift into the digital age. Even if you have never spent time in an office setting, you know there is a stark difference between those who grew up with the internet and those who had it introduced to their lives. If the natural division of people exists due to the circumstances of society, it stands to reason that the same division will prohibit the unification that hopefully leads to success. Legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson put it like this, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
Seeing as the differences between generations could pose issues to your team, it is critical to keep them engaged and working together. Let’s go over some methods for doing so.
Throw out the stereotypes
Alex Carroll is the Founder of Caliber Games, a brand offering a catalog of both classic and original game products. He believes setting aside any preconceived notions about who people are based on their age is wise.
“Each of us have probably spent enough time around a variety of people to form our general outlook on what different ages can represent. I won’t go into specifics but you know you would expect different driving habits from an elderly person than someone who just got their driver’s license. This attitude is a huge disservice to you and your workforce. Basically, you’re assuming who these people are at their core and that’s a dangerous game. It will pigeon hole talented employees and separate them. People are people no matter their age so throw out those stereotypes.
Relay specializes in team-based accountability and connection for people to overcome addiction. Their CEO, Chandler Rogers, suggests being crystal clear regarding the consideration your workplace should give employees thoughts and feelings.
“There was a time and place where the workplace was the last place you would openly discuss your thoughts on politics, religion, or any hot button news item. But, the past is the past. Now, it’s common for many people to wear their opinions and emotions on their sleeve. This has led to these topics being part of daily discussion in the workplace. As with anything, there are pros and cons to this. However, what’s really important here is that anyone and everyone even remotely involved in these discussions treat others with ample amounts of respect. As the boss, it’s up to you to reinforce these boundaries from time to time so stay on top of this one. It’s a sensitive matter so stay on top of it.”
Flexibility is key
We live in a reality where every person’s needs are different. OSDB is a business providing an online sports database. Their Co-Founder and CEO, Ryan Rottman, considers it necessary to accommodate these.
“In my mind, there are two approaches to being a manager. You can work. Meaning, you show up on time, handle your responsibilities with your head down, and head for the door. Or, you can work with people though you’ll need to be more thoughtful. Practically, this looks like taking the particular needs of people into account. The office is not a one-size-fits-all environment. Older employees may benefit from a work from home scenario while your younger crew wants better food selections in the break room. Be direct and ask them what they need. After that, remember, flexibility is key.”
Create a mentor program
Lina Miranda is the VP of Marketing at AdQuick, a brand offering billboards and out-of-home (OOH) advertising. They advise others to lean into the differing aspects of the generations represented within your company.
“Honestly, there’s no greater highlight to having a multigenerational workplace than the experience that comes with advanced age and the willingness that comes with being in one’s younger years. Pair these two things together and you have a formidable ally on your side. What I’m talking about here is a mentorship program. It will take a bit of organization but by placing these two parties together with the intention of bestowing industry or professional knowledge, only good things are bound to happen provided you’ve identified two interested parties. As an added bonus to the company, a mentorship program will serve to create personal relationships that may not have happened otherwise.”
Haven Athletic specializes in gym bags that are climate-neutral along with multiple vented compartments. Their CEO, Caleb Ulffers, believes any level of preferential treatment could result in harm to team morale.
“Anyone with leadership experience knows their decisions and behavior is monitored much more closely than any other member of the team. When the age of employees comes into play, these two elements can cause problems. Let’s say you’re in your mid 40s and you make a decision which, as a byproduct, happens to benefit others of a similar age. Older and younger people will take notice of it and, if they observe a pattern, their disinterest in the team will be incredibly apparent. Think through the ripple effect you might cause when you’re making changes to ensure this doesn’t happen.”
Human nature can tend to be somewhat adverse to something even a little different. Maestro is a business providing an interactive video platform and live streaming solution. Their CEO, Ari Evans, proposes making a concerted effort against this.
“There is this normal reaction in people to focus on anything that stands out as peculiar. It’s understandable because everyday things blend into the background after a while. But, this tendency can also drive a wedge between people in your office. As the boss, you need to be proactive about steering employees clear of this reaction. An effective way of going about this to go in the opposite direction and highlight the similarities people share. Generally, I’ve found people to be surprised at how much they have in common.”
An engaged team that works together is one of the more influential attributes a company can have. From top to bottom, the ability people have when they work together is second to none. Author Kris A. Hiatt found another way to phrase it, “Teamwork is a make or break situation. Either you help make it or the lack of it will break you.”