Think age diversity doesn’t affect your workplace? Before you respond, read the following situations and check off those that you’ve observed in your organization:
- Younger workers who move on without a moment’s notice (or in your case two week’s notice).
- Baby Boomers treating younger employees the way they treat their children.
- Seasoned workers constantly reminding others how things were in their day.
- Gen X’ers who appear to only be in it for themselves.
- Younger managers struggling to gain the respect of older workers who are subordinates.
If you checked off more than one circle, then your organization is among the many facing intergenerational workplace issues. Some companies actually believe these issues will go away on their own. They operate under the premise that older workers will retire and the younger people will mature in time to take the leadership roles vacated by this generation. Problem solved.
Forward thinking companies understand that intergenerational conflict is here to stay. Older workers are deferring retirement and Baby Boomers are still climbing the corporate ladder. Gen X’ers are holding middle and senior management roles while the youngest sector of the workforce, Millennials, are just settling into the workforce.
Organizations that fail to understand the complexities or recognize the opportunities associated with an intergenerational workforce may risk their ability to stay competitive. As more companies address the issues associated with these challenges, those not planning ahead and leveraging generational diversity will be left scrambling.
Here are three things your organization can do today to turn this challenge into an opportunity:
Open the box
Instead of putting people into boxes, we need to open the box to get a better glimpse of what’s inside. Provide employees with opportunities to discuss their differences and similarities. Then focus on the commonalities. This is the first step towards creating an environment where generational differences are understood and appreciated.
Turn silver into gold
Mature workers are no longer opting to spend the sunshine years of their life in the south. That’s good news for those New England employers who recognize the knowledge and experience this generation brings to the workforce. The key to retaining this generation of employees is to provide them with opportunities to pass along their experiences to younger workers.
Companies like Chevron, Prudential Insurance and Monsanto have established mentoring programs to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from one generation to another. Smaller businesses can do the same.
How can we expect supervisors and managers to navigate through this complex arena without proper guidance? Provide supervisors and managers with training and access to consultants who can help them head off intergenerational misunderstandings. Offer intergenerational management training as a reward to all newly minted supervisors and managers.
Start today and you will immediately reap the benefits that occur when a company turns a challenge into an opportunity.
About the Author:
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions (www.yourhrexperts.com) and has been helping companies align their people assets with their business goals. She is considered an expert in generational workforce issues. Roberta publishes a monthly newsletter HR Matters (www.yourhrexperts.com/hrjoin.cgi) which is jammed with resources, articles and tips to help companies navigate through sticky and complicated HR workforce issues. Click here to read her new blog on Generation Integration http://generationintegration.typepad.com/matuson/. She can be reached at 413-582-1840 or Roberta@yourhrexperts.com.
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