Multigenerational working is part of the way we do business today.  But how is it affecting the way we work? What can we do to build better relationships and enable effective organisations?

Recently, Dianne Lee, Jonathan Betts, Renos Savva, Elisabeth Mortimer-Cassen, Amina Udechuku and Jackie MacRitchie have explored this.

We shared experiences of working in hierarchical structures and what we did to succeed in our careers.  Being loyal, taking responsibility, working long hours, and serving time were some of the major factors.

The world has changed since then, although echoes remain in our leaders’ behaviours. Do older leaders need to change to be successful?  We discussed why this was important as well as what we could do differently.

What are the benefits of #multigenerational working? Here are four reasons (from our groups perspective):

1.     Challenge current thinking. Embrace naivety.  It’s important to ensure diversity of thought by listening to different perspectives and disrupt conventional patterns of thinking to create a climate where innovation and creativity will thrive.

2.    Share expertise.  Different generations can bring different skills. For example, we need to maximize the digital (and AI) natives’ capabilities that Gen Z (and the upcoming Gen Alpha) bring.

3.    Maximize energy!  The enthusiasm and can-do attitude that younger people sometimes have means they are unafraid of trying and exploring new technologies and ways of working.

4.    Sustain the organization. We need to build organizations that are fit for the future by developing leaders and creating a culture that works for people of all ages and will enable organizations to thrive.

If multigenerational working is important, what are we are doing / could do to enable success?

1.     Create learning opportunities.  Whether it is taking risks to support on the job learning, or more formal apprenticeship programs, continued development is critical. The excuse of shorter tenures “so its not worth investing” will not help retain the best people.

2.    Be curious.  When challenged, be open to listen to what is being suggested before saying “we’ve done that before and it didn’t work”.  Ask what the thinking is behind the challenge.

3.    Create a feedback culture.  This needs a culture of trust and psychological safety, and it is critical for ongoing learning and performance-based rewards.

4.    Create transparent career paths.  Have smaller steps that focus on skills development and purpose.  Be clear what needs to be done to get to the next role. Share stories of unusual career paths with challenges faced along the way. Seeing a hierarchical career path as the only route to success will reinforce a traditional competitive vs collaborative way of working.

5.    Align rewards and recognition with desired behaviours.  Be transparent, share benchmarks for salaries and provide context for decision making e.g. changes in company performance and tough marketplaces. Be clear what can be shared (like pay grades) and what cannot (individuals’ salaries).

6.    Focus on your #peoplemanagers.  We discussed and posted ideas about this in a previous post.  Having managers who understand the different strengths that individuals bring and what motivates them is key. The emergence of more vulnerable leaders who role model learning from mistakes and informal ways of working creates an innovative and speak up culture.

7.     Engage employees in change and decision making.  For example, having Shadow Boards where a group of employees develop strategy in parallel to their leadership and then input ideas.  Have innovation days to get ideas from across the organization. Involving individuals directly in strategy and change encourages #leadingforchange and #employee engagement.

We would like to acknowledge Sophie Bryant, Maisie Smith, Max Mitropoulos, Maya Shah, Emma Kenworthy and Imogen Larkin.  Without their input this could have been a very different post.