Not a Millennial? Feeling a little out of sync with the younger generation as you work on projects and in teams? Here’s a secret.

They’re a lot more like you than you might expect.

For example, Millennials want to be a part of a team. “Millennials value teams, because it enables the work and their goals, but also because of the social interactions it provides,” says CCL’s Jennifer Deal. “Working on teams — with people they trust and care about — is how Millennials feel connected to the organization.” Probably much like you.

Creating a team dynamic that works for everyone is essential — and it can be done. Try these tactics, adapted from Deal’s new research-driven book, What Millennials Want from Work, co-authored with Alec Levenson.

Infographic: 5 tactics for cross-generational teams

Re-think the boring stuff. Millennials often think they should be exempt from boring work. You may remember paying your dues earlier in your career and have no sympathy. But, what if, working together, you could come up with alternatives to anyone having to do the repetitive work, or at least how to reduce it considerably? Millennials may have ideas or technology options that haven’t been explored, and you have the knowledge and expertise to figure out how to make new processes work.

Flex the hours. Millennials are willing to work long hours, and they want to have a life outside of work. Same as you. Teams that are feeling overburdened can work together to find a solution so everyone isn’t working all the time. Perhaps one team member would be happy to come in early, while another wants to stay late. Or, you could balance out off-hours coverage so not everyone has to be responsive 24/7.

Help them learn, but don’t be a parent. Millennials don’t want you to act as a parent. They have their own parents to worry about. What they would appreciate, however, is a helpful mentor who can provide feedback on how they are doing and how to be more organizationally savvy. Millennials realize you have knowledge that can’t be learned in school, and they appreciate it when it is shared. They won’t necessarily act as you’d like them to, but they do appreciate the information.

Give good reasons. Being told that a task needs to be done a particular way just because it’s the established way will open the door to Millennial push-back. Try saying something like, “You might want to try it this way because I’ve found it saves me a lot of time and effort in the long run, but of course it is your choice,” versus “You should do it this way because this is the way it’s been done for a long time and it works well enough.”

Learn from each other. Millennials want to learn new things, which means that they are likely to want to learn about what you’re doing and help you with it. Help Millennials understand what they don’t know and provide them opportunities to learn from you. Hopefully, you’ll also find some areas where you can learn from them; they do have considerable knowledge.

6 thoughts on “The Secret to Teamwork across Generations

  1. I have a millennia family member that works for Shopify and I toured the Ottawa office. It was an amazing workplace environment and culture that was geared especially for that age. Although truth be told, it appealed to me as well. I believe that companies who truly care about their employees invest in developing space that is condusive to innovation and supports the needs of all employees. Shopify follows the 5 Tactics with not only cross-generational teams but within generations.

  2. I identify as a millennial and recognize the importance of reading article such as these that refer to inter-generational work styles. I work in the public higher education sector in the U.S. and sometimes feel that many folks I work with who are more “seasoned” are stuck in their way. I do the best to have patience with them and do the best to understand how they may feel because one day I will be their age as well.

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