Team development

Overcoming generational differences in teams

Traditional career arcs are becoming a thing of the past - employees are no longer staying with the same organization, or even the same industry for the majority of their careers.

This means that teams are more likely to include people not only from different cultures, but from different generations too. Diversity can create barriers in a team, but when handled properly and with the right set of tools, strengths can be leveraged to create an even more effective team.

This is where the Insights Team Effectiveness model can help. It gives team members an awareness of these differences and ways to resolve internal miscommunications and challenges.  The result is a strong, highly effective and successful team.


Ignore the warning labels and understand the ingredients

‘Baby boomers’, ‘Generation X’, ‘Generation Y’, ‘Millenials’. We all know that these labels don’t make the person, but it’s impossible to deny that there are perceptions and general commonalities that can be taken into account when it comes to age. The challenge is to identify them, understand them and ultimately leverage them to increase effectiveness.

Here are some examples of the sort of issues that generally arise:

  • Communication preferences.In general the workplace is becoming less formal, both in dress and communication style. Younger generations who have embraced this shift can appear disrespectful or aloof to older generations.  In contrast, older employees can seem a bit stuffy and stifling to creativity which can cause conflict.
  • Management style.As the workforce focuses more on collaboration and innovation, the role of managing a team has shifted. Hierarchical expectations across generations can vary greatly causing unclear roles.
  • Technology familiarity.Certain demographics of a team will maintain a greater reliance upon technology than others. Older generations tend to rely on younger generations to assist them with the newest technologies, which can cause tension.


The secret ingredient - Insights Team Effectiveness

Our Team Effectiveness methodology can help. It begins by looking at the team through the lens of preference by having each member evaluating the team across 32 different issues.

Each issue is associated with one of the four pillars of team effectiveness: Process, Focus, Flow and Climate. Each of these pillars encompass eight individual components of an effective team: working methods, measurement, results orientation, shared purpose, agility, collaboration, trust and cohesion. This comprises the Insights Team Effectiveness Model.

Through facilitated discussion, exercises, and break-out work the team can learn how their individual and collective preferences and communication styles impact team dynamics and performance.


The proof is in the pudding

Through years of assisting organizations who employ age-diverse teams, and by using our Team Effectiveness model to really understand the challenges those team members face, we’ve found the following points useful to consider:

  • Acknowledge, respect and embrace generational diversity.Ensuring generational nuances between age-diverse team members are recognized will not only minimize potential culture clashes and miscommunication, but will also help to strengthen bonds between team members and maintain a positive environment.
  • Focus on similarities, not differences.The “new way” of doing something today will become the “old way” in the not too distant future. The key is to recognize that change is inevitable and keeping the team goals clear and at the forefront is crucial. That’s a similarity they all share.
  • Avoid making too many assumptions.- Everyone knows someone in their lives who defies typical age stereotypes.  Be it a grandparent who embraces social networks, or a college student who rejects smartphones, there are always exceptions to norms. Assumptions about preferences based on generation alone will lead to even greater problems, so take the time to truly get to know each member’s preferences through the right tools.


Team success tastes good!

Age-diverse teams have many inherent obstacles when it comes to achieving high performance. However, through an awareness of these challenges, and by understanding the preferences and capabilities of the team, an age-diverse team can easily overcome these hurdles and achieve ultimate success.