How to Manage a Remote Team that Spans Generations
In an ever-evolving workplace, how you manage your team may need to transform. From changing how and where we work to who is in the workforce, traditional management techniques may no longer be effective.
The composition of the workforce is likely one of the more permanent changes. Today’s managers need to lead and unite teams that consist of multiple generations. This requires a flexible, adaptable method of leading, mentoring, and supervising.
The Changing Workforce
Today, people live and work longer than ever. As a result, companies often have staff that crosses a range of ages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates that this generational diversity will grow in the next decade.
The BLS reports that in 2000, 3% of the total workforce was over 65, and 23% was between 25 and 34. By 2020, those numbers had increased with 6.6% over 65 and 22.7% between 25 and 34. This growth is not expected to stop, with the BLS predicting that by 2030, 9.5% of the total workforce will be over 65 while 21.3% will be between 25 and 34.
Clearly, a multigenerational workplace isn’t going anywhere. So, if you’re managing a remote team that crosses generations, you’ll need to find a way to unify them to create a functional, collaborative team.
5 Tips for Managing a Multigenerational Remote Workforce
1. Skip the Broad Brush
It’s an age-old tale: one generation trash-talks another. And while it happens (and happens and happens), in the workplace, making general statements or assumptions about other generations can create barriers that make it hard to get work done.
When you (or anyone on the team) call someone a boomer, slacker, or snowflake or talk about an age group being entitled, disloyal, or afraid of change, this discriminatory language can create resentments that make it difficult to respect each other and work as a team.
As the manager, make sure you are not making generalizations or using discriminatory language, even in private. If a staff member says these things, make sure to address the comments privately and respectfully.
2. Use and Encourage Flexible Communication Styles
Different generations prefer different communication styles for multiple reasons. It’s important to respect those differences and encourage your multigenerational staff to learn from other generations.
For example, older generations tend to prefer the phone over written communication, while younger generations are often the opposite. This can create conflict when different generations have to communicate.
However, by bringing your staff together and educating them, they can learn from each other. For example, older generations may prefer the phone because text messaging didn’t exist when they were younger and because they’ve learned that chatting with clients on the phone helps them build rapport and establish solid relationships that last.
Younger generations likely grew up with texting as their main form of communication, which carries over into their work life. Particularly on a remote team, written communication is often the primary method of sharing information. Older generations who don’t know a GIF from a meme can learn from their younger counterparts how to master asynchronous communications.
3. Know What Matters
When it comes to benefits, a one-size-fits-all package may be convenient for the employer but may not satisfy the many different desires of a multigenerational workforce.
For example, younger generations may prefer benefits, like student loan assistance or the ability to work from anywhere. Older generations may prefer paid leave or flexible work hours to help take care of kids or even aging relatives.
Identify what matters most to all of your employees across the generations to ensure you’re offering a comprehensive benefits package that has something for everybody.
4. Encourage Multigenerational Collaboration and Teamwork
Everyone on your team has something to teach and something to learn. So, give everyone on your team a chance to collaborate and transfer knowledge among themselves. By encouraging different age groups to learn from each other and grow from the experience, you’ll help break down generational stereotypes, which can help create a cohesive team.
It is crucial, though, to ensure that everyone is given an equal chance to teach as well as learn. There may be biases that the older generation knows more and must be the ones to share their knowledge. Likewise, there may be a bias that older generations are unteachable or unwilling to learn.
Though it may be challenging, this can be an opportunity for everyone to see there are shared values and goals that span all generations.
5. Balance Shifting Norms
One of the major hurdles of managing a multigenerational workforce is that it will contain a variety of beliefs, values, and norms. Though some of those will center around work (you must work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), many will center on personal norms (such as gender norms).
Managers may face the challenge of supervising people with clashing or conflicting beliefs. And as the leader, you may need to adjust your management style and possibility policies accordingly.
For example, younger generations are often more open to discussing their mental health than previous generations. However, not everyone (no matter their age) may be as comfortable talking about it or hearing about it.
As a manager, you have to balance shifting norms with staff comfort and create an environment where a variety of beliefs and values are accepted and valued.
A multigenerational workforce has its advantages as well as challenges. But by leading flexibly and supportively, you can create a cohesive team that spans generations, giving you a diverse team that excels at what they do.
For more tips on managing a remote team, read our Q and A’s.
By Rachel Pelta | May 9, 2022 | Categories: Remote Management