In addition to cultural and religious diversity, companies are struggling with another type of issue: multigenerational teams. Engineering jobs are as likely to be held by people from the baby-boomer generation as they are by millennials. Each group has different attitudes and work styles, so bridging generational gaps is important to having a smooth-running and productive workplace. Below are a few ways to minimize generational gaps in your department.
- Encourage mentoring. Older workers have life and work experiences that are often very valuable to the company. Younger workers can benefit from that experience, particularly if they are new to the workforce. Additionally, younger workers typically bring a fresh perspective that can increase the problem-solving capabilities of older workers by opening up other possibilities. Not only can mentoring expand the capabilities of your engineering staff as a whole, it can improve teamwork and lessen generational gaps.
- Minimize communication mishaps. The meaning of words changes over time. For example, an engineering acronym that meant one thing twenty years ago may mean something completely different today. It's important to have concrete definitions for terms and that everyone is aware of them. This can reduce miscommunications, particularly between employees who have had engineering jobs for a long time and those who are just entering the industry, and ensure everyone is working on the same page.
- Invest in sensitivity training. A multigenerational engineering crew will have different cultural experiences, even if they all may belong to the same racial and gender group and have lived in America their entire lives. Social mores have drastically changed, and many of the generational gaps that you are confronted with will likely lie in cultural attitudes. Sensitivity training can help each group see where others are coming from and teach them skills for interacting with one another that minimizes offense and misunderstandings while still allowing for fluid working relationships.
- Avoid age-based characterizations. It's easy to attribute issues and viewpoints to a person's age, particularly when it comes to disagreements and problems. However, you want to avoid doing this at all costs. Not only can this further widen generational gaps by causing a negative image of a particular age group to form, it can lead to legal issues like age discrimination lawsuits. Encourage employees to frame issues within technical, work, or other neutral contexts.
- Lead by example. No matter where you land in the age spectrum, employees will look at you as the model of acceptable behavior. If employees see you reaching across age lines for assistance and advice, they are far more likely to do the same.
Encouraging employees to get to know one another is also an excellent way to bridge generational gaps. In addition to fostering greater understanding between the age groups, this can lead to long-lasting friendships and stronger teams.
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