In order to be successful bridging the gap across the generations, you must find common ground that enables you to close the gap and effectively reach your opposing generation.
Adopting a Communication Style
Being sensitive to the way you communicate will help you bridge the generation gap at work. Understanding that the older generation prefers face-to-face communication and the younger prefer electronic methods should give you a base to form a flexible communication style that reaches all generations at work.
Here is an easy way to adopt your communication style. Use the TAP method for communicating. You will have to think a little before you communicate to someone, but the investment is well worth it. TAP stands for the following components:
- To-the-Point: Make your communication brief and succinct. The older generation will appreciate the clarity and the younger generation will appreciate the brevity.
- Adapt: Change the method of communication for your audience. If you are going to engage an older worker, make the effort to either call them or better yet, see them in person. They will feel respected and valued. For the younger generation, use email or instant messaging, etc. to reach them. They will feel independent and not micro managed.
If you need to address the entire group, younger and older, in an email, make yourself available for follow-up by telling the group to reply, call or see you in person if they have questions.
- Professional: When in doubt, communicate professionally. Avoid jargon and text abbreviations in your communication. Use salutations and close your communication properly. You will show the older generation that you respect them and set the example for the younger generation on how to communicate professionally.
Creating an Affinity Group
Affinity groups are groups of people sharing common interests. You can create such groups at work that give different generations a chance to work with each other with an activity, which is not directly work related.
These groups provide a way for the generations to learn more about each other’s interests and values. You can create several affinity groups, promoting cohesion among the various generations. Affinity groups are usually non-hierarchical. They are typically small and do not require centralization.
Affinity groups could tend to become closed. That is why allowing groups that focus on non-polarized topics are the best way to introduce affinity groups in your workplace.
The lack of knowledge could breed fear between generations or lead to misinterpretations. Sharing knowledge helps to break down barriers and create an understanding and collaborative environment. There are many ways knowledge can be shared.
Here are some ways to share knowledge at work:
- You can set up a blog where a topic is introduced and then the team can submit comments. Blogs provide a safe and open structure to hold discussions. If you use a blog, be sure to set up clear rules of what and how to share. You want to avoid sensitive topics for discussions. This can undermine the sharing process.
- Form focus groups to resolve an issue or generate new ideas. Focus groups containing various generations is a great way to get different perspectives from your diverse work group. Read up on how to facilitate meetings so you can better manage the dynamics in such a meeting.
- Create a newsletter where employees get to share their thoughts in an interview. This can be a creative way of sharing knowledge.
- Place an ideas box where employees can submit ideas for review by you team. This can be a real box or an electronic version via email or other form of communication.
This post is from November’s topic on Generation Gaps.