Most companies would agree that the digital transformation has brought a wealth of changes to the workplace — changes in technology, processes, workflow, communication, and even overall services and products. Managing that change effectively takes a highly cohesive team — one that moves in the same direction and wants the same things. There’s only one problem: the American workforce is not a cohesive one.
By 2020, most companies will have four or five generations working side by side — generations that think differently, communicate differently, and value very different things. Each generation brings its own unique strengths to the table and it’s important for leadership to capitalize on these strengths — not bury them. The following are a few ways to maximize the diverse generations in your company to achieve seamless digital transformation within your business.
Create A Culture Of Inclusion
We talk a lot about culture in the digital transformation age, and when it comes to generational differences, culture is just as important. Intentionally building a culture that values and includes employees’ knowledge, strengths, and experience will help all employees feel happier at work, and will help you move your company’s mission forward. This could mean making more conscious decisions to involve soft-spoken Baby Boomers or independent Gen X-ers in projects that may typically be overtaken by their more outspoken Millennial counterparts. Or, it could mean consciously pairing a Baby Boomer and Millennial on projects where experience and skillsets will mesh.
Focus On The Consumer — Not The Age Gaps
Generation C — or the consumer generation — is not defined by age. Today, people of every generation are working and buying online, and as such, they all understand the increased expectations of your customer base. Rather than focus on the differences in generation, keep everyone focused on a mission they understand: serving the consumer.
Pretending all your employees think and feel the same will get your company nowhere. Managers need to understand that older employees might bear grudges for being advised by younger leaders, or for losing promotions to people with less experience. They must also realize that younger, faster Millennials might feel frustrated working with older employees who take their time and make more deliberate workplace decisions. Doing your part to communicate the value in your decisions will help calm the waters for those having trouble with a mixed-generational workplace.
Value Agility Over Skills
Although the digital transformation has many companies focusing on finding people with the right tech skillsets, it’s wise to remember that technology is changing to so quickly that no set of tech skills will be useful for very long. Studies show that while knowledge doubles every year, skills have a half-life of just 2.5 to 5 years. “Talent agility” is the new top-earner. Managers need to recruit people of any generation who can change quickly and adapt to new methods of work.
Allow Employees to Teach One Another
Peer learning and social learning can be highly effective ways of allowing mixed generations to understand — and value — one another’s different range of skill sets. It can also help your employees form deeper relationships with one another. One of the class rules of business: relationships are the bedrock of success—both inside the company, and with the greater customer base.
Embrace Thoughtful Transparency
Millennials love transparency. In fact, who doesn’t? As more and more Millennials find themselves in leadership positions, managing Generation X and Baby Boomer workers, their tendency to over-share and communicate can come in handy. Their ability to thoughtfully share information concerning workplace changes can calm nerves in a somewhat unwieldy digital environment. The operative word: thoughtfully. Millennials need to slow down enough to make their updates meaningful, inclusive, and non-abrasive for Gen X and Baby Boomers to hear them.
In the end, no single generation holds everything your company needs to succeed in today’s constantly shifting environment. Rich Milgram, CEO of Beyond, said it very succinctly: “If I had a workforce of people who could communicate with the elegance of a Baby Boomer, the thoughtfulness of a Gen-Xer, and the speed of a Millennial, that would be perfect.” The next best thing: creating a culture that embraces those qualities and helps them learn to value one another.
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This article was first published on Forbes.