Bridging generation gaps for better performing teams

Added to this are many early retirements – especially since the pandemic – which means that companies do not have enough workers. The institutional memory, experience and loyalty of the troops also disappeared.

With fewer young workers entering the workforce in the coming years (or even decades), employers will likely still struggle to create a reliable workforce that can maintain operational efficiency. Especially the aging of the population is emphasized. According to the authors, by the end of this decade, at least 35 countries will have more than one in five people over the age of 65, a first in world history. This is already happening in Europe as well as some of Asia’s largest economies, including Korea, Japan and Singapore. Demographic decline in the United States is also increasing.

In this context, the need for companies to support and retain older workers is relevant in many countries. Although eight out of ten leaders surveyed agreed that a multigenerational workforce is essential to growth, less than half of companies include age diversity in their DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) initiatives.

To improve their operational efficiency, increase their competitiveness and become more attractive, organizations will need to reorient their recruitment strategies to promote greater retention. Efforts that can pay off. Gartner research has shown that a highly inclusive environment can improve team performance by up to 30%. Another McKinsey study shows that the most diversified companies have 36% higher profitability than the least diversified companies.

Take action

Employers must change their practices in three specific areas: compensation and benefits strategies, working conditions, and workplace design.

With the current tightening labor market (and rising inflation), workers, regardless of age, are primed to demand better pay and more attractive benefits. A number of companies have understood this well. To retain older talent, they now offer new supports for menopause, parental leave and vacations.

Flexible working — which may include flexi-time, telecommuting, three- or four-day work weeks, a phased retirement program or job exchange — is another way to entice employees to stay. Once the preserve of white-collar jobs, such work arrangements are now spreading to industrial and service sector jobs through compressed hours, more days off, or measures that allow workers to choose their start and finish times within agreed limits.

Workplace layout can have a positive or negative impact on employee retention. This can be done through low-cost interventions (but not always) based on employee feedback obtained through internal surveys or surveys. These small changes (for example, improving ergonomics or lighting) can improve and extend employee well-being and productivity.

Facilitating intergenerational communication

There are different ways to get there.

  • Encourage non-traditional mentoring helps destroy certain misconceptions or prejudices that harm good intergenerational relations. Two-way mentoring or reverse mentoring, where ideas and advice can be shared in both directions, open ideas and open channels of communication, moreover, creating inclusive networks that help to collaborate and live well together.
  • Focus on commonalities rather than differences breaks stereotypes and reduces tension between employees of different generations. Research has shown that the actual differences between the generations are not as great as these initial assumptions suggest. There is great variation (and crossover) between generations. Assumptions can be contagious, so we must be vigilant in deconstructing them by finding commonalities across generations. This can be achieved by creating opportunities for colleagues to share strengths, passions and life experiences together and to bond over projects, philanthropy and social events.
  • Building bridges between generations so that employees understand each other’s communication codes. Indeed, generational dialects can be a major barrier to collaboration. This often leads to misunderstandings about, for example, vocabulary or the use of emojis. Preferences for communication according to different groups (email, texting, phone, social media, etc.) should also be considered.

You don’t have to look far to find common ground for successful multigenerational communication. Simply ask team members to share successful examples of managing these relationships between family members. The team can create collective ground rules for how they communicate and what media they use, and agree on ways to request “translations” to avoid miscommunication.

  • Encourage leaders who demonstrate innovation in the manner of ruling four or five generations. It is important to identify and reward managers who are comfortable hiring and managing older workers. They are self-aware of hiring employees with missing skills or experience. It becomes an indispensable element in achieving the team’s goals.

They don’t dismiss older applicants as “overqualified” or ask why they’re applying for a position they deem inferior. They understand that there are many reasons why an older candidate may apply and are open to what that person can offer the team.

Given the changing demographics, companies need proactive approaches to retain older workers that will align team dynamics for sustainable growth in the future. Success requires mutual respect, age-appropriate designs, and encouraging openness to catalyze creativity based on the team’s diverse experiences.

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