Today’s workforce has grown to encapsulate a wide spectrum of age groups, commonly ranging from baby boomers to members of Generation Z. Pair this notion with the accelerated growth of technology and corporate culture — not to mention the occasional tension between different generations online and abroad — and it can be daunting to take on leadership of a multigenerational team.
That said, despite its numerous potential challenges, multigenerational leadership is both possible and imperative as workplaces approach 2020. Such leaders must be versatile, ambitious, and patient to guide their teams to success.
Build the right culture
Like any workplace collective, a functional multigenerational team thrives on cohesion and mutual respect. It is up to you, as a leader, to foster this type of culture from day one, building key working relationships and establishing equilibrium as a unit. “When left to their own devices, employees may tend to bunch up in age-based groups,” so consider early intervention tactics like intergenerational mingling opportunities, pre-meeting ice-breakers, and similar ideas to ensure everyone is comfortable with everyone.
When properly navigated, this key first step can make generational idiosyncrasy an afterthought before it even has time to be considered.
Be as flexible as possible
Logistically, multigenerational teams can be a whirlwind of clashing expectations and needs; older traditionalists may value constant in-office work while Millennials may be more open to regular remote work (and, sometimes, the complete inverse). While you should keep your team honest and fluid in times of collaboration, you should also adapt to be as flexible as possible with each team member’s unique demands.
These changes should be unfolded in moderation to keep your team organized, but remember that, in most cases, the end result of a team effort is more important than the means of getting there. Just make sure you are not accidentally catering too much to one worker.
Focus on proper transparency
Transparency should be at the heart of all you do as a multigenerational leader, from general high level communication to the overall consideration of each worker’s corporate identity. That said, there are right and wrong ways to be transparent in a multigenerational sense; do not, for instance, scrutinize a team member for weaknesses on the basis of age or experience (i.e. a lesser knowledge of social media or a lack of general work experience beyond college). Instead, focus on such matters — which still do matter, in terms of personal development — as objectively as possible, framing them as learning opportunities alone. Remember that, in any learning-based scenario, you should still always frame the “why” in addition to the “how” as you work towards a solution.
Rather than a haphazard mesh of ages, a multigenerational team should be viewed as a mosaic comprised of individuals working toward a mutual goal. In this sense, hard work and ambition remain constant necessities, as they are in any corporate endeavor, but they also serve as an equalizer benefiting the company at large.