You have probably seen the 2015 film The Intern, where Anne Hathaway plays the young boss of a massively successful e-commerce site and Robert De Niro acts as her senior intern. Because this is a Hollywood film, heartfelt similarities trump differences and everything works out in the end. But in real life, intergenerational relationships in the workplace might not always be so smooth. In fact, they may cause real issues if not addressed correctly.
Here, we have gathered some information on what intergenerational conflict is and how it can be successfully managed.
With increasing numbers of people continuing to work later in life and Gen Z entering the office, a typical workplace can now expect to house employees from up to 5 different generations. Wide generational gaps also bring with them wide changes in lifestyles and workplace expectations: More women in a higher variety of upper-level jobs, ever-evolving technology, and changing management styles. While some employees might have grown up on the internet, others might have difficulty figuring out how exactly apps work. Accusing each other of being entitled or ancient, these groups may have difficulty working together but may also cause active conflict that leads to interruptions of daily work activities.
So how do you manage intergenerational workplace to ensure that you are getting a multitude of perspectives that all fit together smoothly? The best way to go about this is to implement an effective performance management system that helps minimize generational gaps to promote an inclusive workplace in which all employees contribute equally to company goals.
Plan Your (Inclusive) Objectives and Goals
Any good performance management system begins with objectives and goal setting. When doing so with a focus on generational inclusivity, make sure you have aligned your mission in a way that promotes contributions from all generational backgrounds. A good way to go about this is to make sure your goals aren’t overly focused on things that only one or two generations might be proficient in, such as social media exposure. Instead, try to foster a collective mission that all employees will be able to comprehend thoroughly and identify with.
Try involving a diverse range of employees in this first step, to make sure that everyone’s backgrounds and thought patterns are represented. Then, align organizational goals with department goals to decide on your overall vision for a set time range, followed by specific objectives to ensure that the vision is being fulfilled.
Ensure Transparent Communication
Perhaps most important during the performance management process is to leave all communication channels open. Ask for feedback from the employees, observing if any one generation is finding it difficult to keep up with the objectives or to be productive. Ask for their thoughts on how the system has been working. Do they feel that they have been able to keep up with individual goals? How are these helping the overall success of the company? How could the process be improved to better fit a wider range of needs?
Some tactics to help with communication and feedback are to conduct anonymous surveys and to ask more questions to department representatives. If you sense that something needs to be changed, don’t make assumptions – just ask.
Give and Promote Inter-Generational Feedback
As important as the feedback you receive from employees is the feedback you give them. Be honest about what is working and what isn’t, and ask employees to help brainstorm ways to increase productivity. By allowing all generations to feel active parts of the process, you will promote a more inclusive front while increasing performance.
Ask employees to evaluate themselves and each other as well. Being able to see ways in which others are succeeding will help bridge gaps between generations, creating a more unified and supportive workplace.
However, also notice that not every feedback style might work for employees at different life stages. While millennials might be more open to digital feedback, Gen X might find it easier to communicate in person. Try to find an approach that caters to different needs.
Recognize Good Employee Performance
When employees have been reaching their goals and aiming beyond, make sure to recognize their efforts and achievements. Making employee recognition a priority also ensures higher morale in the workplace. When doing so to eliminate intergenerational conflict, make sure to focus on different ways in which employees from different life stages have been contributing to company productivity. Was a 58-year-old employee particularly good at communicating her thoughts during a nation-wide panel? Did a 24-year-old tech worker recognize an IT error that helped save thousands in the long run? Promote a diverse range of achievements and with it, a diverse range of abilities that fit together to make the workplace the success that it is.
Promote Learning and Development for a Wide Range of Skills
With an inter-generational workplace comes a wide range of skills and abilities. While baby boomers may be exceptionally good at written communication, Gen Z might be great at recognizing international trends. In order to prevent these distinctions from becoming differences, try to make them into common ground.
While the company might offer tech training or university classes to employees, you might also explore bringing together an unexpected team of employees who might be able to teach each other about areas they are most proficient in. Bringing together different generations and asking them to engage in information exchange might foster a warmer environment in which both sides recognize that they might learn from the other, allowing for better communication rather than silent judgment.
And who knows – you might always get some Anne Hathaway/Robert De Niro friendships along the way!