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Can’t We All Get Along: Different Generations at Work

Next time you have the opportunity, ask an IT leader how they support different generations at work, each with their own technology preferences and habits. Handling a diverse workforce is a unique challenge. Organizations should focus on building an environment that is attractive to a multi-generational workforce, but rarely it’s as simple as it sounds.
Whether someone joined the workforce in the 1970s or yesterday, there are some common threads across generations. The phone – talking to another human – is still central to getting things done. However, we use phones in a completely different way, and workers from different generations hold diverse viewpoints on how to use technology in their daily routines, and how important it’s to them in choosing where to work.
Adding work apps to a smartphone? For a millennial, not a problem. Keeping church and state separate with a work phone and a personal phone? A common point of view for Gen X and Boomers that are too frightened to co-mingle work with their personal lives. Embracing webcams and live video in a meeting? A trend led by Gen Z and digital natives that were born virtually with a device in their hand.
A workforce comprised of team members from diverse generations allows the opportunity for workers to learn from one another. In fact, one of the most compelling discussions we have as a marketing team is how we’re using the technology differently. This helps break down silos, gives us greater access, and allows us to think through how our customers and end-users are also thinking about technology at work.
Embrace Change
Every generation approaches the “job” differently; therefore, the daily routine is changing. While change can be angst-inducing, I believe it’s better to lean in and embrace it.
As new generations enter the workforce, they’re fundamentally changing the workplace experience and how teams collaborate with technology. There is little we can do to resist this change or counter the perceptions new workers bring with them. Resisting the shifting work environment, enterprises risk setting themselves up for irrelevancy — and, ultimately, failure. Being fluid and flexible to new tech preferences, organizations can recruit workers with new working styles, which will bring new ideas and values to an enterprise.
Don’t Assume
The stereotype that younger generations are technologically savvy and older generations aren’t has spread in many industries. Several surveys find this notion to be true. But, as with every rule, there are exceptions, and there are even palpable differences within a single generation.
Rather than approaching team members from a particular generation with a preconceived notion, make it a point to learn their views on a specific topic, such as technology, and recognize their strengths and weaknesses. By understanding their viewpoints and skillsets, leaders can tailor their leadership to get the most out of a team and provide the technology that bests suits them. It’s not about merely giving in to the whims of the team but listening to what motivates them. By doing so, team members will feel empowered to do their job.
Engage the Team
A disengaged workforce is also costly. According to Gallup, just one-third of employees are engaged, and “actively disengaged employees” cost the U. S. $483-605 billion each year in lost productivity. Organizations are at a tipping point whether they realize it or not. The employee that quits is more costly today than ever.
The smart approach is to put a strategy in place that engages the team. This isn’t about rolling out the beer keg every Friday; it’s about getting to know the team and what they need to be successful, what tools they need to succeed (technology and otherwise). It’s about building a connection with everyone in the organization, so they can deliver business success for the organization – it’s about building trust.
Many surveys find that workers want a role and responsibilities that have meaning. Part of the engagement might include an opportunity for a mentoring program, where younger employees can learn from more seasoned team members, but more importantly, it works in the reverse — older colleagues can learn just as much from their younger counterparts about the latest social media platforms, messaging apps or about trends in video in the modern workforce.
Empower Flexibility
Millennials, the largest group in the workforce, and Baby Boomers, among the oldest, approach the daily routine differently. The same holds true for the workers in between and those soon to enter the marketplace, Gen Z.
A Gallup survey found 37% of employees would change jobs to have the ability to work where they want at least part of the time. What company would be willing to allow one-third of their workforce to walk out the door, particularly when a solution is so easy?
UCC technologies allow for collaboration from even the farthest reaches of the globe. The real question is: Why wouldn’t an organization encourage this type of behavior to engage and empower a multi-generational workforce?