Leading a multi-generational workforce remotely
Having multiple generations working alongside each other represents a significant opportunity for organisations who get access to a wealth of knowledge and experience together with fresh perspectives. However, blending these diverse groups into productive teams can be challenging, especially if they work remotely.
Uniting the differences
The differences between generations are real, but it’s important to see past the stereotypes, as some behaviours and attitudes might simply be a result of the amount of experience the person has had at the given time or the current stage of their life. To truly understand the generational differences, leaders who feel resistance from an older or younger employee need to try empathy instead of frustration, because whilst all generations are different, there is one thing they all have in common – they all want to be valued.
Employees across different generations often struggle to find an effective way to share knowledge and learn from each other, especially when generations are siloed and therefore keep their expertise and experience to themselves. Compared to the older generations, young employees value knowledge that is shared openly, rather than kept to a specific person or team. Their outlook is influenced by growing up in a world of transparency and access to information, where knowledge is something people are happy to share, whether through social media or interpersonal collaboration.
The pandemic impacted everyone differently. Baby Boomers, born in the era of the post-war optimism have built their resilience to change over the years, however, they are also the ones who are the most vulnerable. Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1979, are generally dealing well with self-isolation, but they have the concern over their Generation Z children who are out of school. Similarly, Millennials face worries about balancing family life with work, and just like Generation X, they are concerned about their ageing parents and the uncertainty they are facing while raising children and maintaining their remote jobs.
Closing the age gap
To address the generational gap in the remote context, leaders can use digital tools to gather data and insights to better understand and address the real concerns of their employees. Developing a Covid-specific communication approach on top of existing communication plans, with focus on transparency and authenticity can help to strike a balanced tone to instil confidence and trust. In large organisations, some employees might get lost in the crowd, so it’s important to highlight each person’s contribution and achievement and not to let success go unacknowledged. Acknowledging and validating employees’ emotions and reactions is essential, and so is communicating the importance of employee wellbeing, not just their productivity.
Many organisations are facing an additional generational challenge as baby boomers are retiring much later, keeping their senior leadership positions for longer, forcing Millennials to stall in middle-management positions, leaving them and Generation Z with little room for upward development. Over time, when these senior leadership positions become available, organisations might struggle to fill large talent gaps with qualified employees possessing strong leadership skills. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to managing a multi-generational workforce. Instead, leaders need to develop a deep understanding of what drives motivation and engagement across multiple generations to be able to create talent strategies to promote the acquisition, engagement and retention of all generations in the workplace.
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