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“Hello Aunty Lisa, would you like to play on the bouncy castle?” Before I could answer, I was squirted by another cousin with a water pistol! This is going to be a great family party – I thought to myself, as I smiled bravely through my drenched hair! And indeed, it was.
As I reflected on our time together in the car on the way home, one of the things that struck me was the diversity of age ranges that were there – from 14-month-old Harriet to 94-year-old Granny. And how everyone, regardless to which generation they came from, had something to say to everyone else, a story to share, an anecdote to recount. Where does this ability to bridge the generation gap come from? Perhaps is it because we have a shared identity as a family, or because we have come together to celebrate a particular event so we have a shared sense of purpose, or perhaps we just care for each other and have genuine interest in listening to one another.
In a research document identifying future workplace trends, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) espoused that with the ageing population working well past their 50s and 60s and even into their 70s, we could find ourselves with workforces made up of 5 plus generations. Many organisations, experiencing such a diversely aged workforce, struggle to bridge the generation gap.
What do the Traditionalists have in common with the Baby Boomers, with the Millennials or with Generation X or Z? If I, or indeed you, want to lead an age diverse team – what are the implications for team development and performance? How do we manage the dynamics so that it is viewed as a strength rather than a hindrance? What skills and capabilities do we need as leaders and to engender in our team members to enable us to work productively together?
If we want to tap into the many benefits of having an age diverse team, such as knowledge sharing, increased creativity as a result of different ideas and different perspectives, and a wider cross section of skills and strengths to utilise within the team, it is likely to be useful to stop stereotyping people and start treating them as individuals. As leaders, we need to develop an engaging leadership style that is flexible enough to enable us to build rapport with a diverse group of people; to be able connect at a level that inspires trust and followership; to be able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and appreciate their perspective. And, in addition to role modelling all of that, it would be great if we could encourage our team members to the same with each other.
In a recent podcast, the CIPD said that “line managers themselves are not trained to manage diversity in age diverse teams”.
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