Why Projects Profit from Multi-Generational Teams
19th June 2015 | Peter Taylor
Real Project Management author Peter Taylor explains how to overcome perceived problems when looking at your multi-generational workforce, and explains how their diversity can make a real difference to the long-term success of your projects.
We are where we are with regard to the multi-generational workforce. We need to build on this not as a problem but as an opportunity.
There are already a number of perceived issues we need to get over:
- In the area of communication, the older generations seem to prefer face-to-face interactions. The younger generations are more at home with the world of email and social connectivity. Generation Y cheerfully sacrifice the lack of privacy for what they see as essential connection. There may be a need for communication protocol education when they arrive in the workplace. Their school and university education might have actively encouraged less formal communication means.
- In the area of management interaction, younger generations like to engage in regular feedback from their managers. They tend to perform better when this happens. Older generations can complain about the younger ones being too demanding and needing too much attention.
- In the area of achieving objectives, there is a commonly held view of the younger generations having a poor work ethic. Seniors and baby boomers are comfortable in a world that means working way beyond the 40-hour week, and expect others to do the same. The younger generations consider that a life outside work is just as important and both need balancing.
In reality I have found that, in the main, all generations have taken to the new means of communication. Being online and socially interacting is something that everyone can do. Yes, the younger ones may ‘get’ new social techniques earlier and faster, but in the workplace the tools should fit the need and everyone needs to get on board to communicate effectively.
As to the work ethic, since I am known as the ‘Lazy Project Manager’ and I am constantly advocating ‘working smarter and not harder,’ through productive laziness, I am on the side of the younger ones. A good job needs to be done, but you should do it effectively and efficiently. Working long hours should be the exception and not the norm.
So how do you make your project (and your organization) great for every generation?
Be aware. Understand the issues and the generations and map those onto your own project. This is no more than another dimension to your overall stakeholder management activities. The more you understand the better prepared you will be.
Be open. Talk about these generational issues in a safe, open and friendly environment. Spread that understanding and awareness you now have to all of your team members and get them to talk about their views and expectations, what works and what doesn’t. Get them to consider their impact on others in the team.
Be creative. Find ways to build on all of this diversity. Think about it- you have someone with experience (older generation), someone with enthusiasm (new generation), someone brought in from outside the project (objective viewpoint) and someone not afraid to speak his or her mind and drive the team hard (someone who will drive the point home).
Be a leader. Recognize that the diversity of thought and approach makes a project team all the stronger and all the more appealing to others. If we all thought the same way, we would never develop new ideas, never embrace change and never be able to move our projects and therefore our organizations towards their strategic future.