With differing sets of values, expectations, and work styles, multigenerational workforces have always posed challenges for organizations and employers. Our current labor pool, however, is particularly unique.
Today, there are five generations in the active workforce, the most in contemporary history. Because of this diversity in age, human resources teams must be intentional in their efforts to engage their employees.
At rater8, we recognize that a diverse workforce brings tangible benefits — including a wealth of knowledge, new perspectives, and a range of skill sets. As a result, we have implemented strategies to engage our multigenerational workforce and cultivate the benefits of our distinct team.
In this article, we examine the benefits and challenges of multigenerational workforces and explore a few tried-and-true methods rater8 uses to engage our own generationally diverse group of employees.
What is a multigenerational workforce?
A multigenerational workforce comprises workers from different age groups. Generally, these “generations” are defined by major historical events, such as World War II, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and 9/11.
While there is no official group that decides the names and ages of generations, consensus opinion defines the five current workforce generations as the following:
- Silent Generation (born 1925-1945)
- Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)
- Generation X (born 1965-1980)
- Millennials (born 1981-1996)
- Generation Z (born 1997-2012)
With the greatest age diversity in contemporary history, today’s workforce offers unprecedented benefits and challenges that HR teams must learn to navigate. By understanding these aspects, organizations can improve their employee development, engagement, and retention.
Benefits of a multigenerational workforce
Different generations bring with them different strengths and perspectives.
Younger employees, for example, are more accustomed to rapidly developing technology and the adaptations that come with it. Similarly, more experienced workers bring with them a wealth of knowledge that helps guide decision-making and long-term planning.
When brought together, a cohesive multigenerational workforce can usher in a myriad of benefits. While the list is nearly endless, some of the top advantages of age-diverse organizations are:
- Diverse perspectives: With different life experiences, every age group brings unique viewpoints to the workplace. Organizations can use this broad range of knowledge and skills to improve decision-making, innovate processes, and more.
- Mentoring opportunities: A multigenerational workforce provides ample opportunities for employees to learn from each other, including reverse mentoring and cross-generational learning.
- Unique relationships: A mix of ages within the organization creates a family-like structure, leading to the development of personal connections, a strong company culture, and improved job satisfaction.
- Broad problem-solving abilities: Each generation brings a unique approach to addressing challenges and conflicts, fostering creative solutions for organizational problems.
- Knowledge transfer: With a broad range of knowledge and experience, a multigenerational workforce can be used to develop effective employees in-house, as well as prepare future company leaders.
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Challenges of a multigenerational workforce
Of course, whenever a diverse collection of people is brought together, there will be challenges — and a multigenerational workforce is no different.
When building a multigenerational team, HR professionals should consider the following obstacles when developing their workforce strategy:
- Communication challenges: Employees from different generations often have disparate communication preferences and ways of interpreting tone, leaving multigenerational workforces susceptible to miscommunications and unintentional friction.
- Stereotyping: Generations can have preconceived notions about different age groups, leading to a toxic company culture, inconsistent treatment of employees, and ageism.
- Different employment expectations: Different generations may have contrasting job expectations, including work methods, training preferences, performance evaluations, and compensation packages — perfect fuel for disagreements.
Beyond these three main challenges, HR teams should also prepare themselves for differing worldviews and cultural sensitivities.
Tips for engaging your multigenerational workforce
When it comes to bridging the generational gap, no part of an organization has more control than the human resources team. With intentional efforts, HR departments can better engage their employees, leading to greater overall satisfaction and a more united company.
Here are four tips for developing a more cohesive multigenerational organization:
Cultivate a fair, consistent workplace
Creating a consistent work environment allows organizations to foster a sense of unity and shared vision. For multigenerational workforces in particular, consistency is key to engaging teams with drastically contrasting employment perspectives, work styles, and personal values.
From the organizational level, a simple way to foster cohesion is through consistent job titles and roles.
Whereas more traditional companies may differentiate positions by experience and tenure, we recommend assigning job titles based upon duties and responsibilities. For example, a 22-year-old new hire will have the same title as a 55-year-old company veteran if their roles are the same. This consistency creates a sense of fairness, and reinforces the importance of each role in an organization.
Similarly, organizations can engage their multigenerational teams by offering company-wide perks that enable a healthy work-life balance — something every age group wants. For example, at rater8, we offer broad wellness benefits, unlimited PTO, and a remote work environment for every employee, regardless of role and tenure.
HR departments can also foster unity and engagement with internal branding efforts, such as company apparel, team gatherings, and organizational traditions. Different from external marketing, these tactics help foster a cohesion of purpose and vision that crosses generational lines.
At rater8, we send new hires “swag kits,” host monthly social events, create custom Zoom backgrounds, and more to bring our diverse team together!
Cater your communication methods
When it comes to communication, language gaps have always existed between generations. Traditionally, though, younger generations almost always assimilated to their employer’s communication norms.
Digital communication methods, however, have rapidly changed workplace environments, causing a dramatic rift between age groups — especially in a post-COVID, remote work era.
To engage a multigenerational workforce, organizations should look to find a middle ground between the preferences of their various employees.
For example, at rater8, we use email for non-urgent messages, Zoom for face-to-face conversations, and Slack for timely responses. Providing a range of communication platforms enables us to find common ground between team members’ preferred contact methods — leading to a more cohesive, engaged organization.
As an added bonus, we use Slack to grow employee relationships, with channels for sharing pet photos, favorite songs, and more!
Additionally, organizations can engage their multigenerational workforce by adapting to the personal communication boundaries of their employees. For example, some employees may have caregiving responsibilities or routine appointments that may impact availability. Similarly, in a remote environment, employees may be located in different time zones, causing different work schedules.
Instead of simply forcing rigid communication expectations, companies could provide flexible communication methods and schedules — meeting employees at their respective needs. In doing so, organizations can foster a culture of respect and inclusiveness, encouraging different generations to communicate, collaborate, and drive positive outcomes.
Collect employee feedback
Organizations can also use feedback to engage their employees, such as surveys, performance reviews, and one-on-ones.
For age-diverse teams especially, regular feedback gives employees the opportunity to share their perspective on current workplace dynamics, as well as potential improvement opportunities. This feedback can then be used to enhance the employee experience and address generational needs.
For example, a company may introduce a new communication platform, only to learn that older employees are struggling with the solution. With this feedback, the organization can address this concern, such as by offering tutorials or changing the application altogether.
Importantly, regular feedback helps employees feel valued and heard, which is vital for employee engagement and satisfaction.
By using feedback to engage their multigenerational workforces, organizations can ensure they are providing a supportive and inclusive workplace that meets the needs of all employees, regardless of their age.
Offer development opportunities
Regardless of age, nearly every employee has the desire to expand their skill sets and advance their careers. As a result, organizations should provide a wide range of learning opportunities, as well as create an environment where questions are encouraged.
To engage employees across generational lines, training should be tailored to the preferences of different groups. For example, a younger employee may enjoy gamified training modules, while a more veteran one might prefer reading a guide.
Importantly, while different learning methods should be used, there also should be established development processes to ensure every employee is getting the same growth opportunities. At rater8, we accomplish this balancing act by offering online learning modules, as well as requesting feedback during annual reviews.
rater8 also offers employees multiple learning opportunities, including courses on unconscious bias, developing emotional intelligence, and more. We even use CliftonStrengths assessments to help team members identify their strengths, behavioral tendencies, and learning styles.
As one can expect, trainings are not the only way to engage multigenerational workforces. Organizations can grow their diverse teams through knowledge-sharing programs such as peer-level partnerships and cross-generational mentorships.
Regardless of approach, taking active measures to develop your organization’s team members can lead to greater satisfaction, higher retention, and a more engaged multigenerational workforce.
Join our multigenerational team
With a dedicated human resources team, rater8 strives to ensure our employees are valued and engaged. As a member of our team, you will receive a myriad of benefits and perks, including:
- A fully-remote work environment
- Unlimited PTO
- Comprehensive health benefits
- Additional wellness benefits
- A 401(k) plan
- rater8 apparel and “swag”
- Company-wide social gatherings