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How to Manage a Remote Cross-Generational Team

How to Manage a Remote Cross-Generational Team
How to Manage a Remote Cross-Generational Team
In a remote or hybrid work environment, don't fall into the trap of making assumptions about people based generational stereotypes.
Posted in: Remote Work
How to Manage a Remote Cross-Generational Team
How to Manage a Remote Cross-Generational Team

Learning how to manage a remote cross-generational team has its challenges but also has benefits. When managers can leverage age-related differences, it provides a positive experience for all employees who can fulfill their needs and potential. Teams will be more productive, and the company will have a sustainable talent stream.

Today new generations are entering the labor market. Team managers not only have to manage remote teams effectively but account for the fact that there may be several generations working in one team. The ability to lead a multigenerational workforce requires some flexibility and adaptability to deal with diverse needs and expectations. 

How many generations are in the workplace

How many generations are in the workplace

The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that by 2030, 9.5% of the total workforce will be over 65, while 21.3% will be between 25 and 34. It is important for managers to know what generations are working together in their teams. 

How many generations are in the workplace? Diversity in the workplace is wider than it has ever been before.

  • Baby Boomers: Very hardworking and motivated by position, prestige, and perks (1946 to 1964)
  • Gen X: Independent, skeptical, and believers in work/life balance (1965 to 1980)
  • Gen Y: Tech-savvy individuals known as millennials who thrive on feedback (1981-1996)
  • Gen Z: Digital natives who have grown up using tech (1997 to 2012)

Challenges of managing remote, cross-generational teams

When generational idiosyncrasies manifest in the workplace, it can cause frustration in a team. Baby Boomers did not grow up using the internet or with advanced technology, whereas Gen Z was born into a very different world that has made them digitally competent from a young age.

  • Varying levels of digital competence: When it comes to problem-solving, an older generation may feel slightly uncomfortable asking questions, such as how to merge PDF files or download videos from YouTube. They may be afraid of not looking tech-savvy enough when comparing themselves with younger generations.
  • Negative stereotypes: People often have misconceptions about those in another age group. Older people may feel younger people are entitled and over-sensitive. Young people may believe older people are inflexible and afraid of technology. These negative stereotypes can cause a toxic culture where people feel they aren't a good cultural fit.
  • Different communication methods: Baby boomers tend to pick up the phone and have a direct conversation. Gen Y and Z prefer to use emails or instant messaging rather than picking up the phone.
  • Varying expectations: Different generations may have different expectations in how they do their work, receive feedback or have their performance evaluated. They also expect different management styles. Gen X like their independence and want to be trusted to get a job done. Gen Y and Z like getting feedback and working in a team. They don't want a leader to micromanage them. 

Pros of a multigenerational workforce

Managers who are able to leverage age-related differences can help to support business sustainability with a sound talent pipeline.

  • Multiple perspectives: One of the major advantages of a multigenerational workforce is that different generations have distinct perspectives and ways of viewing work. Sharing their perspectives can bring a wider range of knowledge and abilities to the workplace.
  • A combination of innovative thinking and experience: Workplace diversity management should include offering cross-generational awareness training for team members. When team members receive such training, they become more aware of how to appreciate differences and learn from each other. Getting young people with innovative mindsets and older people with experience to collaborate can increase team productivity.
  • Mirror of the family structure: Various generations working together mirror a family structure. This offers team members opportunities to form personal connections with others outside of their own generation. They can get learning and mentoring experience while strengthening such connections. 

Tips and tricks to manage/lead a multigenerational workforce

Tips and tricks to manage/lead a multigenerational workforce

One of the challenges we see with modern cross-generational teams is that they have their own distinctive features. Younger generations are more comfortable with tech and enjoy flexible work schedules. Older generations usually appreciate more structure and routine.

Good managers will be able to handle these differences and make the most of them. They will encourage knowledge-sharing between generations and offer cross-generational awareness training. 

#1. Listen to different generational needs

  • Older generations are usually more concerned about job security, health benefits and pension schemes. They may also appreciate paid leave or flexible work hours to take care of children or aging relatives.
  • Millennials want a work/life balance and career opportunities. They may also want opportunities to give back to society and benefits like on-site daycare.
  • Gen X and Gen Z may want assistance with student debt and training or personal development opportunities.

Workforce diversity management would involve having open conversations about these issues. It is important for managers to identify what matters most to the different generations. They need to ensure that they offer a comprehensive benefits package that gives everyone something rather than going for a one-size-fits-all package. 

#2. Promote collaboration and transfer of knowledge

Everyone has something to learn and something to teach, whether they are part of an older generation or a newer one. The more diverse a team is, the more ways members have to interact and learn from each other.

Managers need to get all generations to see their differences as strengths. Older generations could benefit from learning tech from younger generations. For example, they could help older generations to get more of an idea of how to use certain tools and dig deep into their functionality. For example, if they need to dive into logo creation, they could start to help them with the basics.

Younger generations could benefit from talking to peers with years of experience in the business. The older generation is often a repository of useful knowledge and wisdom they have gained over the years, which they can impart to a younger generation. The process of mutual sharing and learning can help with making everyone feel like a good cultural fit. 

#3. Cater to different communication styles

Cater to different communication styles

There are many reasons why different generations prefer communicating in different ways. It's important for managers to respect these differences. They have to find ways to blend the various styles of communication and find common ground.

  • Older generations usually prefer a more assertive style of communication. They often prefer using the phone and speaking directly to people. These people feel chatting on the phone with clients helps them to build rapport.
  • Younger generations who grew up with texting carry this over into their work life. They would rather use text or instant messaging than pick up a phone.

Consistency in company-wide communications is important, but managers could find ways to facilitate different communication styles on a smaller scale. Leaders could choose video or text-based communication based on the needs of the team. Managers could suggest team members pick up the phone for more urgent, complex matters and use emails or Slack for quick, less complex questions.

To overcome the modern challenges of remote working, teams need to communicate if they are to thrive, and this requires using various avenues of communication for different purposes. Older generations can learn from younger ones how to master asynchronous communications, and younger generations can learn more about building trusting relationships by using a more assertive style of communication with clients. 

#4. Be flexible and supportive

Older generations may work best on a 9-5 schedule, but this does not suit everyone. It is important for managers to adapt their managerial style to what different generations expect. Some team members may want regular feedback, and others may want to work more independently. Some may rather skip a lunch break and finish earlier.

Others may prefer to start late and work in the evenings. Team members should be given the opportunity by managers to find what works best for them and makes them most productive. 

#5. Balance shifting norms

 Another hurdle for those who have to manage/lead a multigenerational workforce is varying values, beliefs and norms. Some of these are about work, but others may be about personal norms, such as gender beliefs. Young people are often more open to discussing gender norms and issues like mental health.

Older generations may not be as comfortable talking or hearing about such issues. Managers have to find a way to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable, and a variety of beliefs and values are accepted. 

Conclusion

Cross-generational teams can be more balanced and productive, but there are keys to managing them successfully. 

Getting to know a remote team and the generations of team members is one of the main keys to successful management. 

Communicating openly and transparently can build an atmosphere where everyone feels included and respected. If managers can lead in a flexible and supportive way, they will create cohesive, cross-generational remote teams that excel at what they do.

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Thursday, 30 May 2024
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