The times are changing, constantly, change is important as well especially for businesses. During the last three years most companies effectively had four different generations working together – some had five – but we will focus on the most prominent four. The so-called Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z – who have only recently begun to make their way from university libraries to office chairs. We now have different levels of work experience but also different experiences of life and different views. This is not a bad thing, but it can cause some tension between older employees and their younger counterparts. This can be difficult to navigate at times but these differences, however cliché it may sound, really does make us stronger. Are there ways of effectively bridging the generational gap, is it a lost cause or is a generational gap all in the mind?
Reverse Mentoring: Solution or breeding ground for more problems?
1. Mentorship Programs
Don’t stop reading! We’re not talking your regular senior to junior employee mentorships, take a step back and try skill sharing and reverse mentoring. Skill sharing allows people to learn from each other, for example Millennials and Generation Z’ers know how to market products online whereas Generation X and Baby Boomers take a more hands on approach to selling their products.
Reverse mentoring requires a willing senior employee to spend some time with a junior employee, in this situation the junior employee would be the mentor instead of the senior employee.
2. Spot The Differences
Instead of finding common ground, why not find what makes your employees different and embrace that? Think about it, if everyone thought the same way, worked the same way, and approached new projects the same way business would hit the proverbial iceberg pretty quickly. Like we said earlier, our differences can make us stronger. Allow employees to show each other different ways of doing everyday things and see them grow together.
As far as life skills go Baby Boomers and Gen. X have a lot to teach Millennials and Gen. Z about life. For example, while Millennials might be very focused on working day and night because they believe it will get their career off the ground Gen. X have by now learned the importance of balance to avoid burnout and can pass those skills down to younger generations.
3. Improve Communication
One of the biggest differences between older and younger employees is their different ways of communicating. Creating an environment where employees feel respected by their colleagues will improve communication especially when they know they can talk to each other about their issues and resolve it among themselves.
4. A Little Respect Goes A Long Way
A respectful environment creates the basis for people to grow. It’s easy to think that the atmosphere at your company is one of mutual respect between employees and that may well be true but certain behaviors might make employees feel less respected. While a good sense of humor is great to lift the spirits, some jokes are insensitive and just bad taste. For example, joking that Millennials are bad communicators because they’re always staring at smartphone screens or that Baby Boomers were born BC (before computers) and therefore are inept to understand technology. Jokes like these might make people feel like they cannot be themselves in the workplace and create awkwardness.
5. Maybe It’s All In The Mind
There may be quite some differences between generations in the workplace but we might be assigning too many negative qualities to these differences than there needs to be. According to research done by Cambridge University there are more differences within one generation than there is between the various generations. The main reason we fear the generation gap is because there are so many stereotypes going around and mainstream media, social media etc. constantly reinforces these stereotypes. The various generations may do a lot of things differently but at the end of the day everyone wants to do their best, grow in their careers and be happy.