10 months ago by Helen Taylor

Team Building and the Multi-Generational Divide

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If there’s one thing Lord of the Rings taught us, it’s that teams come in all shapes and sizes.

And the more diverse your team is, the more likely you are to succeed. Why?

Different perspectives enable higher levels of introspection. With a team comprised of multi-generations, individuals can:

  • Challenge each other
  • Question what they know
  • Attack problems from all angles
  • Embrace new ways of thinking

The result is a powerhouse team that can ignite progress like never before.

We partner with the forward-thinking training and coaching consultancy, Oakridge, to explain how you can successfully build a multi-generational team so you can reap the benefits of closing the divide.

Trust is Everything

Age discrimination is one of the biggest problems for managers in charge of multi-generational teams. And it happens at both ends, as Shafi Musaddique, writer at Independent, reveals:

“Three-quarters of 25-to-34-year-olds consider themselves discriminated against for being ‘too young’ and over half of over-55s say they have been discriminated unfavourably.”

Toxic attitudes towards younger and older employees can strip teams of their effectiveness. If an individual can’t share their ideas due to the fear of being put down, the team can’t develop into something special.

Counter this by nurturing a culture of inclusivity, openness and appreciation by encouraging socialisation within teams. As Oakridge explains:

“This will build a good basis of trust. Also, ensure the way your staff socialise caters for different interests across the group so everyone enjoys the process.”

For example, organising a boozy night out probably won’t appeal to everyone. Find out what each employee would prefer and create a social event everyone can get excited about.

You’ll create perfect environments for social bonding, bringing your team closer together for peak performance at work.

Age Does Not Have a ‘Preference’ of Approach

How old someone is doesn’t necessarily dictate how they like to approach a project or task.

Rather, it’s a personal preference. To illustrate, some people like to build IKEA furniture following the instructions step-by-step. Whereas others prefer to dive straight without the manual. The thing is, both methods can lead to the same end result.

Encouraging individuals to tackle projects in their own way creates a healthy balance within teams and ensures everyone can work autonomously. This boosts motivation which enhances productivity, making the group extremely effective.

The lesson here is that there is no wrong or right approach for any generation. You just need a good balance. So long as everyone understands the desired end result, loosen the reins and give individuals the power to shape the team’s success in their own unique ways.

Effortless Communication Sparks Progress

Renowned speaker, Tony Robbins, once said that:

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately dictates the quality of our lives.”

In the same sense, it also dictates the quality of our work. As Oakridge puts it:

“Teams work best when working towards a common purpose and even better when this is communicated and debated clearly.”

To unlock enhanced communication for seamless collaboration, teams need to value a range of communication channels. That means not only conversing over email or phone but chatting over less formalised channels such as WhatsApp, or Slack.

You might be thinking, ‘But will my older employees reject modern forms of communication?”

Attitudinal barriers to technology can cause problems. But you shouldn’t assume this is the case for all your more senior staff. In fact, Oakridge has seen a large increase in the number of multi-generational teams using WhatsApp to discuss work-related topics.

Suggesting that there’s an issue when there isn’t one can discourage employees to embrace new technology. Rather, let employees come to you if they have a problem. All it may require is a little training to optimise communication between team members.

Flexibility for Unhinged Genius

“Work is not a location; it is an activity,” explains Oakridge. “We have been conditioned to think that we need to be at our desks to work effectively. But this can stifle performance.”

The team coaching consultancy has witnessed first-hand the benefits of introducing fresher tactics to job-related discussions – such a flexible-working.

When people can get away from their desks or even the workplace, they have the freedom and autonomy to tackle problems and spark discussions more efficiently.

The trick to maximising productivity in this respect is ensuring you meet the different needs and drivers of each individual. If every employee works in a way that suits them best, your multi-generational teams will be unstoppable.

For instance, that might mean working from home once or twice a week. Office life can be quite gruelling for older generations. Giving them the choice to work somewhere more comfortable will help them become a more productive team member.

Can You Close the Generational Divide?

Dismissing damaging preconceptions about age is the key to building a phenomenal team.

Lead by example and send the message that we are all still learning, no matter our age. Being open to different ways of seeing the world is key to discovering better approaches and driving progress.

A great place to start is encouraging team members to coach and mentor each other. This ignites original discussions bursting with insight and new ideas.

It also allows every employee to bring their value to the table, helping you create a business-boosting culture of inclusivity where everyone is respected and treated equally.

Want more game-changing tips to drive your business’ performance? Read our guide on how to create high-performing leadership teams.

Or, if you have a specific question about multi-generational teams we haven’t answered, give us a call on 0161 359 3789 (Manchester) or 0207 871 7665 (London) – we’re more than happy to help!