It wasn’t that long ago that Baby Boomers were concerned about Millennials and then Gen Zers in the workforce. They were concerned about how to encourage the younger generation to be responsible and productive, and how to motivate these digital natives to put away their cell phones long enough to make meaningful connections important to long-term employment. Can be made
Today the conversation has changed. A shortage of skilled workers, along with an uncertain financial outlook in retirement, is drawing Baby Boomers back into the workforce. This influx of a generation that is traditionally into retirement is introducing the challenges of ageism, a new dynamic in the diversity, equity and inclusion equation. This time, millennial managers are concerned about how to integrate boomers with their age-other peers while the skills gap boomers hired bring into the workforce.
Providing the organizational framework for building strong and supportive age-other relationships will make change easier for all concerned. Here are some ideas to make the transition easier for your employees:
1. Set communication standards. Set guidelines and be specific about how information is disseminated. While Boomers are comfortable with email, they may not be as familiar with texting and chat tools for more immediate information exchange at work. Make sure everyone on the team has access to the tools and how to use them. Eliminate the possibility of the situation where a back-to-work boomer is checking email for a meeting invite when that information has already been sent on Teams or Slack.
2. Encourage peer-mentoring. In today’s workplace, traditional mentoring is being replaced by the reverse mentor, or peer-mentor approach, where younger employees teach older employees what they need to know, especially about technology. A lot has changed in the last five years. Technology and remote working are just two factors driving changes in the workplace in which boomers could use help.
In turn, boomers can help younger employees with soft-skills advice for leadership development, customer interfacing, integrity and work ethics. This creates great mentor-pairing opportunities between Boomers and Millennials or Gen Xers.
3. Provide access to microcredentialing for upskilling and reskilling. In today’s work environment, where relevant education is more important than experience, the use of microcredentialing can level the playing field for employees of all ages. Keep in mind that a collateral benefit of this type of training is the shared experience that brings a team closer together. Invest in training relevant to your business and encourage all team members to participate.
4. Build age-diverse teams. Age diversity is an advantage for any team where the corporate culture fosters a work environment where all ideas are heard and welcomed. Encourage team members to recognize that a team’s diversity is an important factor that makes it strong.
5. Have the team define its purpose. Teams are more effective if they view themselves as allies, working together for a common purpose. Do they know “why this team exists?” and “What will this team accomplish?” Make sure the team revisits these questions when milestones are met, or team composition changes.
Reflective questions can also build a team’s confidence, such as “What are we doing well as a team to meet our goals?” Reflective questions that explore how a team can work better and identify missed opportunities will increase team effectiveness. Remember, the point is to encourage different perspectives and learn from the process.
6. Identify prejudices and eliminate them through awareness. We all make assumptions about other people. However, these perceptions promote prejudice and encourage stereotyping which can have a negative impact on the work environment. Create a meeting place to discuss the assumptions we make to test their validity. As people become accustomed to recognizing that they make assumptions, expressing their assumptions, and learning that assumptions are not valid, they will begin to build cross-generational intelligence that is not hindered by prejudice.
For example, an older person may interpret a younger person’s use of a phone in the middle of a discussion as a sign that they have checked out of the conversation, when in fact, they may be taking notes or listening to the discussion. Will be looking for information to support. , Bringing the perception out into the open provides an opportunity to explore how the older person might choose a different mindset when this happens, or how the younger person might indicate what they are doing so that their actions are not misinterpreted.
Contextual learning’s emphasis on experience and the constant pace of change in technology have worked to level the playing field in the workplace across generations. Providing the opportunity to develop strong, collaborative, cross-generational relationships will build a stronger team and allow for the integration of the boomer population returning into the workforce with benefits to all concerned.