Effectively Managing Generational Differences in the Workplace

With the possibility of having up to four generations in the restaurant workplace at once, it’s critical that you have a strategy in place to overcome generational differences. Without such a strategy, there’s bound to be tension in the ranks – which in turn affects your business’s overall success. Fortunately, bridging generational gaps is as simple as acknowledging and respecting differences, while looking for common ground. Here are the key understandings and strategies you’ll want to employ.

Recognizing and Working With Generational Sticking Points between Your Employees

The first step to working with generational differences is acknowledging that there are differences. The second step is inviting conversation around what those differences are. Generations differ drastically on a number of important points such as how they communicate, make decisions, share information, receive feedback, and show respect and loyalty. They also differ on what they think is appropriate in terms of dress codes, work ethic, behavior at work, and adherence to company policies and trainings.

The key realization is to understand that no one group is ‘right.’ We each developed our ethics around these matters according to the realities of the world we grew up in. Inviting conversation around this topic helps the different generations gain understanding and appreciation for each other, and is sometimes all it takes to relieve any mounting tension between groups.

Appreciate Generational Differences in the Workplace and Look for Common Ground

After you’ve spent some time fleshing out generational differences and needs, the next step is to start looking for common ground. While the differences between generations can be great, the underlying needs are the same. For example, take the sticking point of sharing information and knowledge. All people share the common need to have information in order to do their jobs well and feel like valued members of the team. How they want to give and receive that information is what varies from one generation to the next.

Learn to Flex and Resolve Generational Differences in the Workplace

Now that you’ve gained understanding for both the differences between generational needs and  areas of common ground, the next step is to take action. Ideally, you can find a way to flex so that the needs of each generation can be met. For instance, consider how the generations prefer to learn differently – with the Millennials preferring online training while the Traditionalists tend to prefer a classic classroom setting. Rather than catering to one group or the other, offer both options, let people choose and keep the focus on verifying that they have gained proficiency rather than on how they got it.

Where you can’t flex, find a way to resolve the issue. Utilize the unique strengths that each generation brings to the table and look for solutions which are mutually agreeable to everyone – after having had a thorough discussion with your staff about what everyone’s needs are.

The key to harmony between generations at work is communication, respect, and understanding. Fostering these values will immeasurably help to facilitate a strong, highly effective team for your business.

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