After almost 3 decades of Team Building activities, we at Team Dynamics are noticing that the age diversity in western countries offices is increasing. This impacts on our client’s requirements when motivating their teams searching for more multi generational workforce Team Building. In any given activity we are working with different generations. On one hand there are still the baby boomers (ages 51 to 69 or so) that still are extremely healthy and productive and are not even thinking about retiring soon. On the other hand, there are the so-called millennials (roughly ages 23 to 38). Soon to be the majority of the workforce in a few years, or already are in some countries. That’s not even counting generation Z that is already entering the work market.
But there is more than just the age gap in a multi generational workforce. Never in human history, have we witnessed this pace of development in technology and science. The difference is a lot more than just a number. All these generations have different cultures, motivations, work habits and drives.
How can companies cope with a multi generational workforce and, most important, stay on top of their game in terms of productivity?
Does productivity decrease with age?
The assumption that productivity declines with age is factually wrong. Research in many industrialised countries shows clearly that productivity does not diminish with age.
There is, of course, difference in productivity between members of older age groups, but that is also true for younger workers. To put it scientifically, the variance within each age group is significantly larger than the variance between age groups.
So, if empirical data hasn’t shown that, despite working habits, culture and differences there aren’t productivity differences, what is better for your team: a mixed age environment or a single generation team?
Should you have teams with only one age group instead of a multi generational workforce?
Let’s reverse this question this way: Are your clients only from an age group?
If not, do you think your workforce should be? Age is a key factor to having a truly diverse team. When hiring, remember that having a diverse team is crucial, especially when engaging with different ideas and skills. By creating an age-inclusive environment, managers create teams whose solutions fit a wider range of clients and customers.
Behaviour from different age groups
There’s no point denying that there are stereotypical views about each age group and it’s worth remembering that making age-based assumptions works both ways.
Younger people often have the idea that an older person lacks “project enthusiasm and engagement”. That they are just counting the days until retirement or/and that they cannot adapt to the new ways of working with technology. But the reverse also happens. We often hear that older employees assume that bosses or co-workers, who lack their experience, are then lectured about how things were done back in the day. In fact, a co-worker, no matter how young, may know more than older employees do about certain things.
Therefore, changing the way we see our co-workers, moving them from the stereotypical point of view to a more personal connection is one of the main goals in Team Building.
Also, information-sharing can be a useful two-way street. Not only we should respect the advantages of each age group we must create good communication channels between them.
How can we mix water and oil? Or how to manage multi generational workforce?
Presently, for many HR departments the age gap in their work force is the number one concern:
« How to get your teams to work together towards the same company goal, instead of competing for the best way to get there? »
Like in the culinary world, it is possible to mix water and oil. Just add an egg and some other delicious seasonings and you’ll get an enticing mayonnaise.
If you haven’t quite understood this metaphor, Team Building is the egg that helps the communication flow, the camaraderie and unification as a team of all your workforce generations. And, to explain this metaphor even better, Team Dynamics is the delicious seasoning. Why eat a plain mayo if you can have the best and most enticing of them all?
But I digress…
Team Building offers plenty of engaging and fun activities for team members across the generations to get them to know each other better. You, as a leader, need your multi-generational team members to know how each think, help them respect the differences and better yet: make them learn to love the differences. At the end, it is very important to encourage them to celebrate, together, their shared successes!
Age diversity in teams might create better results and more productivity. But it is not easy to achieve this. Are we seeing this productivity increase today in our workplaces? Well, it can be achieved if you, as leaders, provide Team Building across generations. You have to maximize the value of generational differences. By realizing potential and success when experience and knowledge meets youthful innovation and drive.
The age gap in companies is not a current problem that HR departments have to worry about. This will continue in the future. The foreseeable demographic changes will create an aging working population.
Companies will have to make better use of the experience of older workers whose numbers will continuously increase. In their turn, these older workers need to keep up with the new technological and scientific developments to continue to be productive.
New companies that have no, or very few, older workers on their payrolls will have them in them in the future. It’s the law of life. We just must find ways to keep teams productive, happy and motivated.
If only there were something that could solve this problem? Oh, wait there is. It’s here that you should add the egg to the recipe………. Well-chosen Team Building activities!