Generational gaps have always existed in the workplace and managing them is a perpetual topic of debate, concern, and learning. Through his work for Impact, David Cooper has been bringing together older generation leaders and millennials for a few years now, to have robust conversations concerning the generational gap. Here he shares some of the things he has learnt along the way.
Treat them as individuals
Avoid globalised, overarching conversations, that assume all 90+ million Millennials (or any generation) will act the same and expect the same. It’s much more productive to focus on localised conversations aimed at seeking to understand. Make time for conversations within an organisation, a department or a team to uncover what it is that makes those individuals tick.
Challenge and align perceptions
Use these conversations to challenge and align perceptions. This serves to uncover the real motivation behind behaviours - the behaviours that end up the targets of generational stereotypes and generalisations. Debunk assumptions and stereotypes and explore ways to work more effectively together and understanding leadership needs.
Seek out common ground
When different generations engage in conversation it allows them to explore behaviours, desires and expectations. Instead of focussing on assumptions and stereotypes, they often begin to realise that they are in fact dedicated to the same end game – quality deliverables and a healthy, profitable organisation. In discovering this common ground they set themselves up for greater understanding, collaboration, and effectiveness.
Engage and Empower
Alignment and common ground provide the foundation, environment, and context of trust often needed for leaders to take a risk and find the courage to delegate, empower, and truly engage talent. Trusting in and leveraging the diversity (generational or other) of a team and organisation is critical to long term success. Create opportunities for talent to take on new tasks, roles, to lead and collaborate, to shine and to fail. Challenge and support collective growth and the generational gaps are sure to narrow.
These tips definitely fall into the “simple not easy category”. A straightforward approach that makes sense and most of us nod our heads in agreement. So, what keeps us from doing this on a regular basis? Why does it prove difficult in organisations? The answers vary person to person and culture to culture. Find the opportunity though – to see these tips through - and you’ll reap the benefits.
David Cooper is a Senior Consultant at Impact Americas.