4 ways to bridge the generation gap in a collaborative environment

  • Millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers typically adapt to collaborative environments with different levels of speed and comfort.

  • Companies can help bridge the gap by thoroughly training all employees and encouraging cross-generational communication.

As baby boomers delay retirement and more millennials enter the workforce, companies must address differing attitudes and work styles across generations. The age gap is widening in the workforce, bringing about a unique set of challenges, especially in collaborative environments.

Every demographic group has its strengths and weaknesses. Even though millennials and members of Gen X may be digital natives, they don’t have the work experience baby boomers possess. So while tech-savvy employees may have the easiest time adapting to a unified communications system, companies can help others seamlessly adjust to new technologies by bridging the generation gap. Here are four ways to ensure employees of all ages have a mutually beneficial relationship in a collaborative workplace:

1. Acknowledge different learning styles.

To connect with a wide variety of learning styles, provide thorough training materials, courses, and resources geared to all employees. While some workers are comfortable navigating a new digital ecosystem and troubleshooting along the way, employees who prefer learning from print materials may benefit from a go-to manual. When any new technology or system is introduced, an adjustment period is necessary. Unified communications systems can help by offering multiple ways to communicate and facilitate learning.

2. Dismantle misconceptions about collaborative business technologies.

It’s important to emphasize the power of a collaborative online environment, even if participating in one requires new kinds of tools, such as online messaging and video conferencing technologies. Some baby boomers mistrust newer technologies like the cloud if they’re not familiar with them. Work to instill trust in your employees by addressing their concerns and creating a user adoption program.

3. Foster a culture that encourages the adoption of collaborative tech.

While younger employees may be more likely to take advantage of real-time collaboration on the road or from home, all workers should be encouraged to reap the full benefits of more collaborative solutions. Managers and executives can lead by example, using chat for day-to-day conversations or setting up remote meetings. Make it clear that a flexible work environment can be achieved among all generations, and that these technologies do not mean working 24/7. Instead, a unified communication system is an effective way to stay connected and improve productivity by bolstering flexibility and mobility.

4. Facilitate communication between different generations.

Although this isn’t the first time different generations have been thrown into the workplace, technology is accentuating the gap. Starting communication early on is important to build respect and mutual understanding. Employers can adopt open-office designs to encourage talking and collaboration among different types of employees. Companies may also consider starting a reciprocal mentoring program by assigning new workers to more seasoned employees. This approach to mentoring works well because of the intimate, one-on-one learning that takes place. Boomers often have a better understanding of physical business processes, and digital natives are more comfortable with new technologies, so the exchange of knowledge can benefit both sets of employees.

By encouraging cross-generational communications, a unified communication system can be adopted more easily. It also informally reinforces pre-existing training and strengthens workplace bonds, easing the transition to a more collaborative environment.

Brie Hiramine is a freelance writer and journalist who focuses on technology and digital culture. Her work has been published in Mashable, Macworld, and TechHive, among other publications. All opinions are her own. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.


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