Take a look around your office (or for the start-up/gig economy, the coffee shop). It’s a melting pot of generations - from Baby Boomers (age 54-72), to the first Gen Z’ers who just graduated college, and everyone in between (Millennials and Gen X).
Forget trying to figure out the office thermostat, we need to figure out how to get people in a 50-year age span to connect! And since we're in the business of human connection, we here at BCD M&E have a few ideas on how to bridge the generation gap in the workplace.
How to bridge the generation gap and Increase connection at Work
First and foremost, stop compartmentalizing each audience. Believe it or not, many of these generations’ needs and preferences do overlap. Some Baby Boomers love Twitter. Some Millennials will put their phones down.
Regardless of what phase of entrepreneurship you're in, it's critical for all of us to learn how to connect across generations. It's what fuels innovation and drives business. Here is how we, and our clients, successfully approach that multi-generational intersection.
Healthy team members are happy team members no matter what age they are. Today, wellness is expected, and it’s changing business dynamics. Find new ways to weave physical and mental fitness into your employee’s day or at your business events. One thing these generations have in common: most prefer to stay active, eat well, and feel rested.
FYI, fitness doesn’t mean a long, grueling marathon or cross-training session. Touchpoints for mental and physical wellness can be everywhere -- inspirational speakers to get the brain moving differently or even offering diet-accommodating menus and snacks.
Morning yoga not for you? No problem. What about providing mental motivation? Gamification challenges that feed problem-solving skills are multi-generation friendly.
Don’t forget those “no-tech” spaces and activities where everyone puts away their phones and interacts face-to-face, or simply… remains still.
We sometimes forget that everyone processes information differently. Some need more time than others. When you ‘gift’ decompression time, people get inspired and recharge and you will see successful results.
BRIDGE THE COLLABORATION GAP
Across all generations, we’re still learning how to best utilize face-to-face connections and technology. In fact, I’m not sure anyone has mastered this yet. Finding that perfect balance of technology and personal interaction is… well, hard.
Companies and entrepreneurs coming close to the perfect digital/face-to-face time balance incorporate the existing, most-used tech teams want and need. People are engaged when collaboration is simple – so use intuitive options that are easy to implement and are user-friendly.
To take it one step further, consider cloud-based solutions that unify these tools and applications. Then in-corporate collaboration sessions so all generations can quickly and easily contribute - while transferring knowledge in real-time. Some examples here include using collaborative white-boards, employee engagement apps, and social media walls.
We sometimes forget that the goal of technology is to keep everyone engaged, not distracted. So, in the end, just keep it simple.
Professional networking and accessibility to all team members (company founders and below) is key to any successful business. Your team wants to grow their network and enhance their skills so they can keep reaching towards their ultimate career goals.
Engage your team on a personal and professional level by opening up networking events. We live in an age when information and knowledge are at everyone’s fingertips. Because of that, work hierarchies can disengage and deter ‘lower level’ employees from engaging with the ‘top brass’.
Networking IS a motivator. People like hearing others’ career stories and meeting and connecting with other professionals.
Here are a few examples to open networking:
- Giving audiences the opportunity to interact with a keynote speaker or leader following a presentation.
- Creation of small-session presentations and breakouts
- Create ‘wow’ content and experiences to get people talking, connecting and get inspired.
MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT
From environmental sustainability to human rights – every generation wants to contribute to the world around them. They want to share their resources (knowledge, experience, ideas, and passions) in moving their ideals forward. Social responsibility is a key component of this belief. People want mind-share and heart-share.
Start by clearly defining your business’s goals for positive impact – what are the values, principles, and ethics you want to highlight? Then, survey your team. Learn what they want. Then curate your community give-back accordingly.
Through a shared passion for sustainability, our Faversham office came together for a local beach clean
Next, look at your providers. Are you working with suppliers who prioritize fair wages and safe environments? Are you sourcing meeting properties that are working to reduce their carbon foot-print? What are your own office’s alternatives to plastics? Whatever your business’ impact, own it. Ensure your team is aware of the contributions and strides they too are contributing to by simply participating in your program or event.
Members of all generations have the desire and capacity to grow as individuals.
Everyday business meetings and events are uniquely positioned to fulfill those needs. These opportunities provide people with learning and discovery, a change of perspective, and building a strong sense of team community.
The pièce de résistance when it comes to self-actualization opportunities for your team is to provide transformational experiences - authentic experiences that incorporate resonating content. FYI, this isn’t free and does take some coordinating, but you get the highest value from them. Shift your resources to help your team members focus on new feelings of euphoria, joy, and wonder surrounding their job. If your surprise and delights tend to be goods or ‘swag’, make them more meaningful. Or, rather than a physical takeaway, consider creating an a-ha moment that supports the realization or fulfillment of one's talents and potentialities.
The goal of self-actualization moments in the workspace should not be to entertain but to make a lasting impression.
No matter how you look at it, age is simply a number. Everyone wants to be invited to the conversation. Everyone wants to be inspired and make positive change. Ultimately, employees want to be part of an environment that genuinely connects them to other people, the community, and the world.
Invite all generations to participate in your research, surveys and organization’s board meetings and events. Ask them to idea-share or crowd-source, so their topics get heard.
There is never a one-size-fits-all approach to designing the perfect team member experience. But, we are closer to finding impactful solutions when aim for the middle of the Venn (or in this case, Gen[eration]) diagram. Identifying the center of your workforce generational diagram is key to understanding how everyone can relate and succeed together.