What leaders need to know about the relationship between technology, a multi-generational workforce, and building successful streams of communication and leadership teams.
The importance of creating a work environment that is both conducive to the vast array of generations while making the best possible use of today’s talent is imperative to the advancement of society as a whole.
The workforce currently includes more than four generations, which is the largest generational workforce in history (Jahn, Carol A., 2012). The potential gaps and issues that are present are easily understandable with such progressive technological advancements. The days of simplicity in the workforce that traditionalists once had is not the present reality of their workforce any longer with technology advancing almost every aspect of business today. On the other side of this issue is the lack of work experience that younger generations have despite their advancement in technology.
While certain generations may understand the power of relationship-building the other may struggle to utilize current technology.
This raises the question:
How do today’s leaders and CEOs bridge the generational workforce gap allowing the undeniable talents between all generations to work together in a collaborative effort?
Leadership needs a way to properly create connections allowing older generations to pass down immense knowledge about personal experiences and lessons learned while the younger generations may assist in understanding how to utilize collaborative technologies (Wesolowski, P. 2014).
There is however one difficult hurdle to overcome in this process and that is that each generation approaches life and the relationship they have with technology differently as it pertains to work, life, and the role it should be playing (Adam Murray, 2011).
The biggest challenge comes in the most basic sense of the word and that is adapting to change. Humans like to stick to what they know how to do, we are creatures of habit, and when you push change on us there is almost always resistance. Leadership has to overcome this and figure out how to push them past the resistance.
When young leadership is brought in with all the new technological skills in the workforce senior management can feel as if they are being phased out and may feel threatened (Wesolowski, P. 2014). The same can be said on the other hand when senior leadership is not willing to adapt to allow younger workers the ability to work in ways which they are most proficient (Wesolowski, P. 2014).
Human Resources departments have been looking at ways to build training programs that are conducive for both the older generations to teach from yet work for the younger generations to understand and implement. They have found success in combining the lecture-based approaches with technology, fusing the two of them to both explain the concepts and create a hands-on experience.
So what works best to nurture communication and train multiple generations together?
Ironically, the item that one assume’s is separating the generational workforce can actually unite it. Technology can bridge this communication gap with the use of social media and emailing, the dialogue can move quickly and become more focused (Wesolowski, P. 2014). The benefits of all four generations being able to meet on a common communication ground with their chosen communication platform such as email may be game-changing for organizations. Additionally, these types of communication strategies assist in building excellent training programs; allowing a leader from each generation to be apart of the creation process. This way the curriculum includes the best ideas from each learning style incorporated into one (Barrios, J., & Reyes, K. 2016).
Technologies can contribute to areas such as work-life balance for multiple generations. While the desires may be different from the older generations wanting more time to explore and do the things they have desired, the younger generations may be placing a tremendous amount of focus on living the digital nomad life or being present with their children; communication technology allows a bridge for both.
Furthermore, it also creates an incredible tool for leadership to utilize to nurture their workforce in the best ways possible. It allows a place for everyone to be heard, for words and thoughts to be planned before said, and a culture that creates collaborative freedom. Communication technologies allow the needs of each generation to be heard and customizations to their own lifestyle desires; keeping them happy and in turn creating a better company culture (Wesolowski, P. 2014).
How can you build a better company culture now knowing this? In what ways can you improve your teams line of communication and build our more effective leadership teams?
Adam Murray (2011) Mind the gap: technology, millennial leadership and the cross-generational workforce, The Australian Library Journal, 60:1, 54-65, DOI: 10.1080/00049670.2011.10722556
Barrios, J., & Reyes, K. (2016). Bridging the Gap: Using Technology to Capture the Old and Encourage the New. IEEE Industry Applications Magazine, 22(3), 40-44.
Jahn, Carol A. (2012). Unleashing your potential 2011.(leadership). Access, 26(2), 26-27.
Wesolowski, P. (2014). Melding a multi-generational workforce: Communication technology is part of the problem – and the solution. Human Resource Management International Digest, 22(2), 33-35.