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More than talkin’ ’bout your generation: how to manage the challenges of age-diverse teams

The latest Randstad Workmonitor examines employer sentiment about working in age-diverse teams in a multi-generational workforce. What does multi-generational mean? In this case, 10-15 years difference in age between workers. The Workmonitor reports that age-diverse teams are innovative, resourceful and people prefer them.

Why then at RiseSmart, are we so often asked to support organisations who believe managers and employees need assistance in communicating and working productively between generations? 80% percent of survey respondents believe that the main difference between generations is communication styles and a third find it difficult to communicate with co-workers from a different generation.

The inter-generational conversation

At RiseSmart, we shy away from generational stereotypes. They make about as much sense as the fabulous and frenetic TV show hosted by Shaun Micallef – Talkin’ ’bout your generation. When it comes to working in an age-diverse team, we think it’s more about attitude than age. The first step is to challenge our own biases and assumptions. Each one of us comes to a conversation with preconceived ideas about how someone from this or that generation might typically respond. These assumptions alter our listening for that person. In fact, they may stop us having the conversation in the first place. Rather than spending time on defining stereotypes for each generation, perhaps it’s better to develop conversation and questioning skills. Ask open questions. Ask why. Seek to understand.

Inclusivity of all generations throughout the employee lifecycle

It’s very easy to associate certain stages of employment with age. But life is not so linear. People return to study in their mid-forties and embark on a new career. Women in their mid-fifties re-enter the workforce, having recently upskilled after twenty years of caring responsibilities. Failed retirees return as a gig worker, lending their expertise to a new industry.

Consider the key stages of the employee lifecycle and challenge your ageist assumptions. How are you actively supporting your age-diverse team as you go about the following processes?

  • Attraction of employees: What do the photos on your company website depict about age diversity? What language are you using?
  • Recruitment: Is your recruitment process age neutral? Are your recruiters challenging their own assumptions about ‘older workers’ or ‘younger inexperienced workers’?
  • Induction: What elements of your induction program cater for older workers? What inter-generational relationships do you foster at induction? Is it all online or do you include face to face components?
  • Day to day: What is the everyday experience like for older workers in your workplace? What leave policies like grandparent leave or parental or study or moving house or volunteering are in place?
  • Training / development: How many of your employees aged 50+ are actively training and progressing their career and skills? Do you have a reverse mentoring scheme in place – to learn from each generation?
  • Promotion and career progression: How many people aged 50+ have been promoted in your organisation? What qualities are you looking for in a manager? Is it years of experience or attitude?
  • Exit: How do you cater for the diversity of employees if they are going through redundancy? Do you just offer a standard job searching based program to your employees aged 50+? How are you catering for the differences in life stages? How are you proactively supporting people for retirement decisions or entrepreneurship or reskilling?

The ideal multi-generational workplace

Last year, we ran a series of workshops for HR professionals, and posed the question: What would an award winning multi-generational workplace look like? Considering the Workmonitor results, it’s worth revisiting the key elements of managing age-diverse teams as determined by the workshop group. Would you like to work for an organisation that promotes:

  1. Multi-generational flexibility?
  2. Role mobility and rotational assignments?
  3. Finding purpose and meaning within and beyond your everyday role?
  4. Workplace well-being?
  5. Life-long training and career planning support?
  6. Keeping connected?
  7. Leadership – equality, respect and inclusion must be led from the top?

Inclusion is central to successful age-diverse teams

RiseSmart has long been committed to the principles of inclusion – it shapes everything we do. It compels us to stop and consider what it’s like to be in older or younger shoes. And that’s where the conversation begins.

Start a conversation with us.

By | 2018-07-31T09:02:51+00:00 July 29th, 2018|Ageing workforce planning, Commentary|Comments Off on More than talkin’ ’bout your generation: how to manage the challenges of age-diverse teams

About the Author:

Catriona is the Creative Director of RiseSmart Australia and New Zealand.