Most Millennials cringe at hearing the word “millennial” just waiting for some stereotype about their work ethics or social media use to follow. And many of your employees in their 60s or 70s are concerned they’re going to be given the gold watch and shown the door of retirement any day now.
Generational diversity offers tons of opportunity for education, mentoring and camaraderie but those benefits can all too often be overshadowed by miscommunication and frustration. With five generations now working together (Traditionalists, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z), this unique workforce makeup presents the potential to really shake things up. It’s a great chance to think more about your company’s focus on employees’ expectations, values and attitudes about work and life.
- Build a Generational Advocacy Program
It really doesn’t matter what your title is, or which generation you represent; you can always be an advocate for generational diversity at your business. Only when we start focusing on what unites us rather than divides us can we take advantage of the unique aspects of a multigenerational employee base that makes work enjoyable, effective and efficient.
- Get Leadership Buy-In
To build and nurture teams that have diverse perspectives and experiences, it’s key that everyone gets on the same page… leadership included. If the C-suite isn’t on board, the likelihood of a successful program is slim. At least one member of your leadership team should be highly involved with your generational advocates.
- Be Inclusive
Use training to help the generations understand each other and help prevent potential interpersonal barriers of ageism, unconscious bias and pre-conceived notions. Understand that ageism can go both ways, and intersectionality is often a complicating factor. For example, an older white woman might not be viewed with as much respect as her male counterpart. And a young black employee might face more bias than a young white employee. Be sure to include members of typically underrepresented groups—Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ and disabled employees—so everyone hears and receives information from a truly diverse group.
- Watch Your Language
Biased language can very easily creep into conversations, so train your advocates to be alert to ageist terms such as “old guard,” or “old school,” as well as “young man,” and “girl,” when someone is addressing coworkers. We were all young once, and we all age. And it should absolutely go without saying that racist and sexist terminology is not allowed. There should be no “they” or “them” when referring to a group one isn’t a member of so be sure to always use “we” and “us.”
- Create a Reverse Mentoring Program
Many Millennials and all of Gen Z are known as “digital natives” because they’ve never lived in a world without computers and the internet. Many Boomers, on the other hand, are hesitant to adopt the latest technology and might struggle with adapting to new software. Create a reverse mentoring program by pairing your older employees with younger ones. Older employees can teach younger employees the fine art of networking. While younger employees can guide Boomers on proper guidelines for using social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, in the workplace.
- Create an Advocate Feedback Loop
Use surveys and one-on-one meetings to discover what’s working and what’s not and be sure to include all advocates in the communications. But don’t just pay lip service! It’s key to actually implement suggestions and requests.
- Encourage Leadership Opportunities for Everyone
Most leadership positions, especially in larger companies, are held by your more mature employees. Don’t miss out on an enormous opportunity by not offering development opportunities for younger generations. Nurture their leadership potential today so they’re prepared for advancement opportunities when it’s time.
Building on the unique abilities that every employee contributes to the workplace can launch your company into a new level of goal achievement, performance and problem solving.
For more free resources and tools that promote DE&I best practices in the workplace, visit Perspectives+. It’s Paycor’s online knowledge library designed to help our partner network drive change, empower colleagues, and foster new leaders.