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Imagine a world with no variety, everything and everyone similar. How unexciting it would be!
A workplace with varied people, of different age groups, different skills is a welcome place to work. A workplace generation gap is a big issue and a huge challenge if we think so.
A difference in opinions, beliefs, skills, values, and attitudes across generations is known as a generation gap.
Classification of Generations
According to The Centre for Generational Kinetics, Austin, United States, generations are classified based on the year of birth. These are:
Generation Z or iGen(1996 and after)
Workplace Generation Gap
Nearly five generations having different traits are working together under one roof. They try to work in unison towards the attainment of common organizational goals. This might be challenging for the organization and the workforce.
Challenges faced and Ways to Reduce the Gap
A clash in viewpoints, perceptions, communication styles and problem-solving techniques can pose difficulties at various levels.
Sometimes younger bosses handle older subordinates, some skilled and qualified millennials and Generation Zers work under Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. Both situations give rise to ego clashes. Striking a balance between cross generations becomes a task.
So, in situations like these, it becomes important to address the challenges and come up with relevant solutions, like some mentioned below:
1. Open communication catering to varied communication styles
The generations before Gen Yers preferred to communicate via post, phones and interact face to face. Whereas, the later generations, born in the era of technology prefer laptops, tablets, etc.
A balance can be maintained by having face to face communication, like round table meetings and video conferencing. It would promote respect and understanding.
2. Different traits can also complement each other
The experience, dedication, and sincerity towards work are the praiseworthy traits of seasoned employees. Smart and quick work with the help of technology is the strength of the Millennials and Gen Zers.
These styles can complement each other if combined.
3. Need and ability based work allocation
The older workforce can be assigned with a stable and less dynamic role. They want annual salary hikes and promotions for motivation. Whereas, the Gen Yers and the younger lot thrive on appreciation and job satisfaction. As these youngsters are full of energy, they can be given challenging tasks.
This would provide a balance in the work profile of all.
4. Participation of all in conflict resolution
Different generations approach problems differently. The challenge comes in how to reach a positive conclusion. If the organization acts proactively and gives all a chance to speak, it can resolve the conflict in a much better and productive way.
5. Avoid putting tags based on the date of birth
The earlier generations are believed to be non-receptive to technology, but if guided properly, they become ready to learn. The Millennials, Gen Zers are branded as disrespectful and extreme freedom lovers. These youngsters are driven by logic. Thus, they want a proper understanding of their work and are willing to stick to deadlines only after getting clarity.
They give due respect to their seniors only if they find the seniors worth respecting. The generation gap can be bridged only if we look out of the brackets of birth.
6. Mentoring and reverse mentoring
The workplace is like a family of generations. The seniors mentor by giving expert advice and the millennials, mentors by helping in providing technological knowledge. In this way, both get exposed to fresh and new perspectives.
7. Training programmes
Comprehensive training programmes aim at betterment. Giving training to the seniors about new technology and modern work procedures boosts up their confidence. It makes them feel aligned with the rest of the organization. The younger generations are taught the institutional knowledge gathered by the experienced hands.
8. Develop mutual respect
Baby Boomers feel disrespected when they are asked to report to younger bosses. The technically updated younger bosses appear to be a threat to the older generation. On one hand, the seniors have vast experience whereas on the other the Gen Yers and the rest of youngsters are equipped with technical know-how. This can be dealt with when the mutual differences are respected, and they work for common organizational goals. Understanding one another would inculcate mutual respect.
9. Create diverse teams and offer common incentives
A proper generation mix helps in achieving organisational as well as personal goals. Some common incentives, like centred lunches and happy hours, should be encouraged. It allows gelling with the generations with different mindsets. They come on the same page in an informal setup and try to understand each other in a much better way.
The whole universe comprises of various generations. These generations might be different in many ways but want harmony and happiness. The disparities, if highlighted every now and then, can become larger than life. These differences are not threats but opportunities to build a strong, harmonious workplace with diverse people having unique perspectives. This workplace generation gap can be bridged with wisdom, sensibility, and sensitivity. It could get transformed from being a challenge and a problem to a holistic and enriched experience.