Learning & Development, Q&A, Recruiting

Bridging Multigenerational Gaps in the Workplace in 2023

Since Boomers aren’t retiring as early due to the cost of living, there are four active generations in the workplace. Each generation has unique traits and perspectives – and these differences influence how people work, think, and communicate.

As a result, co-workers of different ages are clashing, and organizations must bridge generational divides in the workplace. Company culture has been a hot topic since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as HR leaders and employers have had to rethink and reshape their workplace culture to keep employees engaged and productive. Couple that with DEI initiatives and combatting the Great Resignation, learning how to manage a multigenerational workforce has also become a top priority for organizations in 2023.

If you aren’t sure how to foster generational diversity in your workplace, don’t fret. We’ve tapped Christopher Pappas, CEO of eLearning Industry – an online platform in the eLearning industry – to discuss how employers can foster a company culture that encourages employees at all ages to connect and communicate.

Why should business leaders create a company culture that aligns with employees from all levels of work experience?

CP: Company culture is more important than ever, as today’s workers want to feel more supported and understood in the workplace. However, juggling new demands can be difficult as corporations manage a multigenerational workforce with varying needs. Regardless of their age or position level, staff want to feel valued by their employers. For younger workers in their early careers, for example, this might mean taking extra steps to support them in onboarding and upskilling programs to improve their confidence. Employers must recognize that prioritizing company culture among multigenerational staff will help access a diverse array of perspectives, ideas, and skill sets to be shared to drive business forward.

When setting the tone for company culture, management teams must take into account each workers’ opinions and needs. Our recent Future of Work Report found that nearly half of employees (48%) say leaders have not asked for their input in culture-related matters. This lack of feedback leads to low employee engagement and decreases levels of trust in upper management. Internalizing and applying multigenerational employee feedback will lead to a stronger diversification of company culture and overall success.

How does upskilling/reskilling differ for Gen Z vs. Baby Boomers, Gen X?

CP: Upskilling is important across all generations, but each employee will have their own unique training needs and expectations. This starts with the types of training content they expect to receive. For example, Millennials might want to get up to speed on the latest automation tools that help them expand their skills and grow in their roles, while Baby Boomers might be more focused on collaboration and management, especially as they adjust to work with new Gen Z colleagues.

Each generation brings their own unique attributes to the table, and a multigenerational staff has the unique ability to teach and upskill each other based on their differences and work-life experiences. For example, the concept of ‘reverse mentoring’ can come into play, especially when it comes to adopting new workplace technologies such as messaging platforms – allowing the younger staffer to serve as a teacher to an older worker. This is helpful in areas where older generations might not have much experience, such as data literacy, cloud-based platforms, or social media.

In addition to providing the right training content, employers must also take into account how workers prefer to learn new skills. For Gen Z employees, hands-on training in group settings might be the best route for their skill retention and desire for collaboration. For example, we’ve noticed that using social and collaborative learning platforms works better for younger generations. For Gen X or Baby Boomers, since they prefer more formalized training, they might prefer a course shared via e-mail and completed on their own time.   

How can management teams best tailor their communication styles with employees of different generations?

CP: Bridging multigenerational divides starts with communication. While every worker wants to have a voice at work, each generation has their own way of presenting their voice and receiving feedback. For example, most Gen Zs prefer informal communication in the workplace and surprisingly, 72% have claimed they prefer face-to-face communications at work. In contrast, Gen X prefers formal, written communications between colleagues.

It’s on business leaders and HR teams to ensure managers have the right tools and training place to understand employees’ communication needs and deliver information in a way that aligns. By investing in resources to improve leaders’ and managers’ emotional intelligence, they can properly develop solid soft skills to improve communication and collaboration with every employee. They will likely find that a diversified mix of communications channels – in-person, e-mail, chat, video conference, and more – will ensure every employee effectively receives and processes information in a way that works best for them.

How can executives and HR teams drive employee engagement and offer benefits/initiatives that work for multigenerational staff?

CP: HR teams need to invest in employee engagement initiatives that make sense for everyone – from Gen Z to Gen X. Since the pandemic, multigenerational staff agree on large scale aspects of the workplace, such as flexibility, work-life balance, company culture, and effective communication. eLearning Industry found that 82% of employees now place more value on benefits like flexibility, upward mobility, and pay than they did pre-pandemic.

To improve employee engagement, employers must meet these expectations to retain current staff and uphold company culture expectations, which are constantly changing. HR teams can curate benefits packages that work for multigenerational staff, however there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A 2022 survey found that 63% of Gen Zs consider mental health care their most desired benefit in a workplace. Meanwhile, older staff are likely looking for stronger retirement savings initiatives that help plan for the years to come.

HR leaders must take the time to take in employee feedback on what’s most important to them and create an inclusive benefits package that can be tailored for each worker’s needs. If you want to create a company that is future-ready, then you must consider upward mobility as a necessity. Therefore, offering learning opportunities and uncovering future leaders is key. The best leadership development programs are the ones that can cover the specific needs of your teams. So, before starting any training initiative, I suggest that you focus on your training needs first.

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