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Creating an Environment that Supports Generational Diversity

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Written by

Ashley Mudd

Published

06/08/22

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With Generation Z entering the workforce, there may be up to five different generations working in your workplace. According to Pew Research, these five generations are the Silent generation (born before 1945), Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964), Generation X (born bewteen1965-1980), Generation Y (most commonly referred to as Millenials) (born between 1981-1996), and Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012). While there is a lot of debate about the specific years each generation begins and ends, these conversations can miss the mark when they hyperfocus on years instead of the larger point of the advantages of integrating all generations into an inclusive workforce.

There is a tangible value in creating a team that appreciates and empowers generational diversity. Significant historical events impact the personal values, worldviews, and beliefs of each generation. Conflict arises when an individual feels their personal values are being threatened. This often happens implicitly. The overlay of generational differences upon other cultural differences can provide challenges to team communication and productivity.

When you’re successful at creating a generationally diverse team, it can create more instances of conflicting values. How can you counteract this to create a healthy team environment? According to the Society for Human Resource Management, there are seven values that matter to employees of every age level.

Leveraging these seven values can create an environment that is welcoming and respectful to all generations in your workplace:

  • Feeling respected: Team members want to be respected as individuals. Ensure that individual differences are honored and provide the right accommodations for everyone to work at their best.
  • Being listened to: Develop mechanisms that allow team members to speak up and to offer their ideas. Ensure that team members feel listened to by following up appropriately.
  • Access to mentoring opportunities: Historically, mentoring relationships were between more tenured team members and new team members. To really provide cross-generational value, consider creating formal or informal mentorship opportunities that span across generations. This might include peer-to-peer relationships or having specialists in one area provide mentorship to more tenured team members in different areas.
  • Understanding the big picture: Team members want to know the larger strategy and how their individual work plays into it. Communicate strategy to the broader team.
  • Receiving effective communication: In addition to communicating organizational strategy, everyone wants to stay up-to-date on what’s happening organizationally. Develop a methodical way to share updates with the team. Find ways to diversify how you communicate updates. Some may prefer these updates through virtual formats while others will learn best in face-to-face conversations.
  • Receiving positive feedback: Everyone wants to know when they are doing the right thing. Establish how your team will provide positive feedback to all team members. This can take extra attention to ensure that individual contributors receive praise in the same that way that managers or more tenured team members do.
  • Experiencing an exchange of ideas: Finally, develop a culture where team members can easily share ideas with each other. This increases understanding of the roles that others play on the team while expanding the way team members can contribute.