As more of us live and work for longer periods of time, multigenerational workforces become more critical to businesses. In fact, AARP reports that 83% of business leaders felt that multigenerational workforces are critical to business growth. And yet, 53% of these leaders also report that their companies do not factor age into their diversity and inclusion policies. As these leaders work towards building an age-diverse and high-performing workforce, they are realizing that cultivating ‘gentelligence’ among employees could go a long way in building intergenerational value within organizations.
A term coined by Dr Gerhart, the term ‘gentelligence’ refers to the ability to break down age-based tensions and instead build up intergenerational power. Building up gentelligence requires us to let go of several common assumptions, to begin with. But doing so also enables us to incorporate certain practices into our professional lives to improve our gentelligence quotient.
Practice #1: build intergenerational trust within your team
While most people tend to gravitate towards those similar to themselves in age, Dr Gerhart believes age-diverse teams can build trust and strong personal connections with each other by extending support, enabling a structure that allows all voices to be heard, and communicating the significance of each individual in driving team goals.
Practice #2: foster intergenerational learning and empathy through networking
People like Charlotte Japp, founder of CIRKEL, a platform for intergenerational networking, see the value of intergenerational relationships in learning and career development, and in turn, organizational success. Such forms of networking can also increase an employee’s affinity with peers of different age groups. Besides this, learning something new and valuable from someone from a different generation is useful in building mutual trust.
Practice #3: have fun together
YPulse reported that most of the top hobbies among Gen Z and Gen Y are offline in nature, which means that older generations have the opportunity to connect with them over evergreen hobbies like music, reading, and sport. Besides common hobbies, you could also build a connection with older or younger peers by taking up a pastime that’s offbeat compared to the stereotypical hobbies of your generation but could strike a chord with other age groups. For instance, if you are an older employee, you could easily forge a connection with most ‘typical’ young employees over esports and gaming.
Practice #4: adopt generation- and age-agnostic policies and technology
In your own team, consider simple ideas, policies, or practices that can benefit all people irrespective of the generation they belong to. For instance, walking meetings are a good idea for people of all ages to get their share of exercise. Offering flexibility in terms of how each workstation is kitted out could help each generation feel comfortable with workplace privacy, ergonomics, and technology. Microsoft’s insights about workplace technology is another example of how workplace communication apps can be designed to accommodate a range of preferred devices and communication styles, so that employees of all generations receive the right tools to improve productivity.
Practice 5: manage each individual appropriately
According to Ron Zemke and his colleagues, businesses that successfully manage intergenerational teams have managers who eschew a one-size-fits-all approach to follow ACORN imperatives for intergenerational comfort: Accommodating employee differences; Creating workplace choices that allow the team to shape itself around the work being done; Operating from an adapting leadership style that balances concerns for tasks and people; Respecting competence and initiative; and Nourishing retention through strategies such as training, one-on-one coaching, interactive digital courses, and classroom courses.
A final note: recognize and empower all generations
Jennifer C. Deal, a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina, believes that intergenerational conflicts are often about clout. Resolve this by offering everyone, no matter which generation they belong to, the sense that they are being heard, recognized, and appreciated, and you’ll see them excited about working together and learning from each other.