The Aging Workforce and Gen Y: Bridging the Gap with Technology
While psychologists bemoan technology and social media as making people less interactive in the real world, studies are showing that new technology actually boosts office efficiency and employee collaboration. Increasingly, the aging workforce and Gen Y workers are developing projects together, but are not at the same place at the same time for 40 hours a week. Smart phones, video conferencing and online communities are enabling teams to work together uninterrupted, and faster. Keeping employees up-to-date and engaged in new technology not only keeps your office productive, but reduces turnover and helps save the cost of finding and training new hires, because employees find that these new tools are enhancing their engagement; this is particularly true with teams that include the aging workforce and Gen Y.
As the demographics in the workplace are shifting, new strategies for worker cooperation and communication are needed. The old style of top-down training and mentoring is beginning to crumble, and a new dynamic where older and younger workers exchange knowledge is emerging. This might be confusing or frightening to a supervisor who hasn’t experienced it before, but it’s a positive step in the evolution of office dynamics, and should be encouraged. If your company is slow to adapt to new technology, this can not only alienate younger workers who are accustomed to using newer tools in everyday life, but older workers will perceive the organization as losing its edge and be less engaged. A new strategy to keep the aging workforce and Gen Y at top performance is needed.
The Power of Mentoring
One of the best reasons to allow your new hires, who are probably millennials, to share their technological expertise with older workers is that a new employee is an investment; like any asset, you want to maximize your return on the expense of hiring and training. If younger workers have special knowledge they can share that will make your whole workforce more productive, you absolutely want them to be able to do so. Assigning a mentor to a new hire gives them a point of contact to feel comfortable asking questions, being themselves, and communicating more informally; this will get your new hires integrated more quickly and seamlessly into your organization, where their ideas can spread faster and they will learn company culture more rapidly. Young people excel when they feel that they have something to contribute, because they feel valued; older people enjoy imparting their experience and wisdom to the young, as they feel still relevant and empowered. This new mentoring relationship between the aging workforce and Gen Y will give your organization the best means to introduce and spread expertise in new technology.
Adapting to Technology
Training is important and necessary, but PowerPoints and online courses don’t have much retention capability. People learn best through active interaction and repetition, which can only come from worker inter-relationships. Along the way, your older worker will adapt to new technologies faster, because the younger workers will be showing them how to use it, including tricks and shortcuts. One of the largest impediments to the adoption of new technology is the intimidation of having to read and understand an obtuse user’s manual. If your company has invested in new technology to boost production, letting your younger workers introduce the seasoned ones to these new tools will increase the speed of learning and adapting and using, which increases your return on investment and gives bigger returns, faster.
Team building naturally develops with the use of social media. Older people adapt quickly to this technology, contrary to stereotype, but they hesitate initially as they try to think of ways to fold this new tool into their work habits. Younger people, on the other hand, are accustomed to having an online identity and sharing online all the time, and struggle to find the way to use this skill in the workplace. What’s important is that your company have a social media policy that is sensible but not overly strict, and that your aging workforce and Gen Y perceive the workplace as progressive and adaptable to new ways of doing things, as this will enhance communication and keep productivity increasing instead of stalling. The fact is, each generation has its own perspectives and attitudes towards work. This will inevitably lead to miscommunication and personality conflicts, but new technology provides a smoother platform for the aging workforce and Gen Y to discuss ideas and learn from one another.
If your business is implementing a mentoring approach, be sure to take the time to match mentors and mentees carefully so that they will work well together. Provide an orientation and guidance to your employees on how mentoring works, and ensure that mutual respect is maintained in regards to personal and professional space. Once a structured mentorship is ended, get feedback from the participants so that you can continue to improve and refine the process. To learn more about engaging your workforce and improving your bottom line, read more on these topics at Mighty Recruiter.