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5 Technologies for Supporting Generational Inclusivity

Deb Tenenbaum, EVP, Chief People Officer of Yapstone
Deb Tenenbaum, EVP, Chief People Officer of Yapstone

Deb Tenenbaum, EVP, Chief People Officer of Yapstone

As HR leaders know and numerous studies show, diversity and inclusion are critical to a building a strong company. Although most organizations have a lot of work to do to reach gender parity and increase representation from minority groups, many organizations are already very diverse in one area: Age.

What they struggle with is inclusion. We have five generations in the workplace, but in many cases, they are separated from each other not so much by age, but by the technology they grew up with and how that has informed their work and communication styles.

Left unaddressed, this can cause friction in the workplace. Younger team members may get annoyed with older ones that eschew electronic communications in favor of phone and in-person conversations, failing to appreciate the role these play in building rapport and relationships. Or, older workers may find younger workers’ need for constant feedback unsettling, not realizing that feedback from social media and games are how they learned to solve problems and master new skills.

To foster a sense of team that transcends generations, managers and HR professionals need to stop stereotyping generations and become more aware of differing work and communication styles due to their familiarity with technology and help workers understand how each viewpoints are valid in different situations. And, they need support from IT to help them leverage technology to close the generational gap--not widen it. With that in mind, here are five must-have tools for the multi-generational workplace:

1. Company intranet. A company intranet with collaboration capabilities, such as Jive or Simple, to support capabilities for content creation, search, and collaboration supports self-service access to company related information and a platform for supporting company culture. It’s a place where all employees, no matter what groups they identify themselves with, can connect with each other and communicate.

  To foster a sense of team that transcends generations, managers and HR professionals need to stop stereotyping generations and become more aware of differing work and communication styles due to their familiarity with technology and help workers understand how each view points are valid in different situations  

2. Instant communications. Email isn’t going away, but it is starting to be seen as a channel for more formal communication. Tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Yammer are better suited to supporting instant communications around different topic threads and letting everyone contribute in a more conversational way. They also let project teams collaborate and share documents,and are useful in keeping remote workers connected.

3. Performance management. Tools such as Workday, Namely, BambooHR are helping shift performance management from a once a year evaluation model towards more of an ongoing dialogue. They offer flexible goal setting capabilities; scorecards and gamification for continual tracking of results, and automated coaching tools to help people get the help they need to meet their goals, on demand.

4. Recognition and rewards. Feedback platforms such as 15Five, Reflektive, YouEarnedIt and RewardGateway are a nice addition to the manager’s toolkit, allowing them to quickly give and get feedback around specific projects, events or initiatives. They don’t take the place of performance reviews or weekly one on ones, but they’re good for giving out “likes” and thumbs ups, helping keep people engaged outside the formal review process.

5. Learning management. E-learning authoring tools such as Adobe Captivate, Lectora and Camtasia are the latest evolution of on demand learning for training purposes. Rather than hosting canned video modules, these tools let people and teams create their own courses—think electronic lunch and learns. With backend data analytics, authors can see what was viewed, for how long, and where people dropped off and optimize course material accordingly.

Workplace studies have also shown that all generations in the workplace want the same things, such as being respected and developed in their job. And, they all want technology that is easy to use. Older workers may have come up with technology that required reading a manual and undergoing extensive training, but nobody in any generation wants that now.

The first step to uniting a generationally diverse team is by blowing up siloed technology use. No tool or way of working or communicating is better than another; it’s more a question of what’s best in a given situation. If you’re sending electronic high fives to a person who’s four desks away, maybe stand up and walk over to that person and say, "Job well done."

By deploying the right technologies and making sure they are easy to use and accessible to all, you can bring generations together in the workplace. You can put an end to divisive discussions about which tool or method is best, creating an inclusive working environment that contributes to greater productivity and innovation. 

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