Getting teams on the same page is essential but potentially challenging when employees come from different age groups.
Teamwork may seem like a vague or nebulous term. Companies that hire reliable employees with compatible skills may assume they’ll naturally be able to communicate, delegate and otherwise work together. These organizations may be bitterly disappointed, as teamwork isn’t automatic, intrinsic or universal. Teaching people to work together is a valuable practice, one that can help companies pursue their major objectives with renewed focus.
The process of teaching and encouraging better teamwork may be especially important in cases where there is a steep generational divide between younger and older employees in an office. With many baby boomers still holding onto important roles and Generations Y and Z entering the workforce in great numbers, organizations’ internal efficiency may be defined by their ability to unite teams featuring members who are decades apart in age.
The business world baby boomers faced when they first entered the workforce has been replaced several times over, and digital-native millennials are likely to have a very different set of formative experiences. Finding common ground between the many perspectives within the workforce, including those of the in-between Generation X, could be a job for specially designed and chosen training courses, instead of general professional education.
The importance of unity
Before embarking on a training program to get workers of different ages on the same page, it’s important to remember why this is worth doing. As Business.com contributor Steven McConnell pointed out, collaboration between employees from different backgrounds and with diverse skill sets and experiences is a fuel for creativity.
McConnell recommended specifically ensuring particular teams have a variety of perspectives among their members. Some situations are best handled with abilities and knowledge that are particularly common among certain generations. For example, if a project will benefit from hearing a seasoned industry perspective, there’s no sense picking only Generation Y staff members for the assignment – they haven’t been of working-age long enough to rack up decades of experience.
Empathy as a company value
Understanding between the generations is a subset of a more general trend in corporate training and employee skills. Getting team members to work together comfortably, bringing their own abilities to the table but respecting others’ viewpoints, is a valuable ability to cultivate. HR Dive explained that companies are committing to and encouraging training programs that prominently feature empathy between co-workers and emotional intelligence. This is one of the core virtues associated with “soft skills,” a much in-demand subset of modern abilities.
Significantly, young workers may not have gained high levels of empathy during their college years. PBL Global CEO Thom Markham told HR Dive there is little ability to learn teamwork or collaborative thinking at universities today. This deficit could lead to inter-generational strife once team members reach the corporate level, not because they don’t want to work together, but because they don’t have the soft skills to do so. This is where training enters the picture.
Video courses targeting the generation gap
At first, it may seem like an odd fit to tackle interpersonal skills via training videos, as it amounts to learning person-to-person interaction via a screen. However, there are distinct advantages to choosing video. For instance, video-based training fits into the modern, flexible work style. Getting a whole team together in person for a learning seminar can be difficult, especially when so many offices today work with remote employees either some or all of the time.
Furthermore, when a team brings a new employee into the fold, that individual can receive the same training experience as existing employees, without calling an in-person instructor back for a cost-prohibitive follow-up session. Video courses are also often accompanied by assessments to make sure students are paying attention and have taken away the right message. The following are three relevant courses designed to encourage teamwork among the modern, mixed-generation workforce.
AWESOME: A New Generation at Work, Engaging Generation Y: One of the main traits associated with Generation Y is an ability to change with the times. Since the technologies used by millennials have evolved so much in a short span of time, they aren’t usually locked into specific ways of doing things. This course teaches companies how to harness the tech-savvy and ever-evolving viewpoints of Generation Y workers.
Leverage the Power of Generations: Realizing the unique viewpoint and potential of each generation, without giving in to easy stereotypes or disregarding anyone, is an important balance to strike. This course is all about rallying workers of many ages together to pursue common goals.
Please Respect My Generation!: This video course highlights the preferences and work styles of the five distinct generations currently interacting within workplaces. It’s important to use training methods that reflect the actual makeup of the business-age population and these lessons include individuals who have been born in 2001 or later, so it covers the widest range of generations in the workplace.