For the first time in modern history, there are five generations represented in the workforce. Teams with multiple generations are powerful. They have a wide range of experiences, soft skills, and technical competencies. Studies show that employees who are part of a mixed-age work environment are more likely to be motivated and satisfied in their jobs. However, as a result of varied lived experiences and values, they also face unique challenges when working to build an effective team culture and drive results. Teammates from different generations may have different motivators, values, and professional priorities that make them feel disconnected. Fortunately, DiSC assessments can provide new insights and facilitate discussions to bridge gaps on multigenerational teams and help them tap into their power. Read on for four ways DiSC can help your multigenerational team connect, and ultimately thrive.
Employees who are part of a mixed-age work environment are more likely to be motivated and satisfied in their jobs.
#1: Challenging generational stereotypes
It’s important to recognize preconceived ideas as stereotypes, put them aside, and focus on getting to know your team’s true workplace personalities.
Every generation has its own set of unique stereotypes. Baby boomers have an aversion to change. Millennials are entitled but hard-working. Gen Z is disloyal and sensitive, but full of change-makers. The list of generational stereotypes goes on!
Professor Megan Gerhardt, director of leadership development at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business and author of Gentelligence explains,
“Many of the generational conversations in the news today rely on false stereotypes and clickbait headlines, rather than taking the time to understand the important differences that are a part of our generational identities. When we assign negative or overarching characteristics to each group, we imply that their values, beliefs, and goals are fundamentally flawed.”
Operating with these kinds of negative stereotypes in mind can lead to team dysfunction. When you have an existing idea of what your teammates might be like, it prevents you from leveraging their individual strengths and acting with their real personalities in mind. This can lead to ineffective collaboration, misunderstandings, and an uncomfortable team dynamic. When working on multigenerational teams, it’s important to recognize these preconceived ideas as stereotypes, put them aside when collaborating, and focus on getting to know your team’s true workplace personalities.
With DiSC, teams can take this a step further. Everything DiSC Workplace profiles provide insights into an individual’s preferences, strengths, motivators, and stressors. Taking time to learn about and discuss these preferences helps teams actively challenge stereotypes and gain an accurate understanding of how individuals are different and what shapes those differences.
DiSC sessions also give multigenerational teams the time to discuss the forces beyond their control that have shaped their workplace personalities.
Devoting intentional time to discussing preferences and stressors creates opportunities for participants to explore the experiences that shape those preferences and stressors. Sometimes, these factors include key generational events. For example, in a discussion around communication preferences, young millennials and members of Gen Z might explain that as a result of having worked almost entirely remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they prefer to have time to communicate digitally and limit lengthy meetings. Members of Gen X who experienced the uncertainty of the 2008 recession might express a need for transparency and consistent communication from team leaders. Being aware of the circumstances beyond our control that have shaped our preferences is a key component of both self-awareness and team building.
#2: Discovering new strengths
A DiSC assessment can reveal complementary strengths and opportunities for the teaching and learning of new skills.
DiSC assessments give participants important information about themselves, their teammates, and the kinds of work tasks they prefer. This can reveal complementary strengths and opportunities for the teaching and learning of new skills. The Center for Creative Leadership explains that discussing strengths and creating an open learning environment can add value to a multigenerational team. Skill diversity is crucial to remaining competitive in the global market, and discussing strengths through a DiSC session is a great first step to leveraging a multigenerational team’s wide set of skills.
Let’s use the example of a software sales team. A DiSC session might reveal that one team member is a strong i style with sharp relationship-building skills. Further discussion might reveal that this team member spent the first ten years of her career traveling and generating excitement about this software brand in the field. The same DiSC session might show the team that a colleague is an SC style who is well-versed in multiple innovative sales technologies. He had more time to learn new platforms when he began working remotely last year. By discussing strengths and achievements in their DiSC session, these teammates discovered they have a wealth of experience to learn from on their team.
It’s this kind of discussion that creates an environment of mutual, multigenerational learning.
#3: Setting team norms
Agreeing on day-to-day norms can keep generational differences from hindering team progress.
DiSC sessions allow coworkers to openly discuss their preferences with colleagues. Stephan Kohler, CEO of Audria Labs, notes that “Ironing out these preferences will help everyone on the team feel valued and heard — two critical elements to a happy and productive team.” This also allows them to set new team norms and create a more supportive and collaborative environment for every teammate. Solid team norms can lead to improved collaboration and communication, stronger interpersonal connections, and better business outcomes.
For example, in a DiSC session, members of a multigenerational team might discover they have varied attitudes about in-person meetings. A D-style member of Gen X who has spent most of his working life in person at an office might share that he enjoys making time for long group brainstorms. A C-style young Millennial who has worked from home throughout her career might explain that she prefers to have time to reflect on and build out her ideas before coming to a meeting. She might feel overwhelmed by frequent, long, in-person meetings.
DiSC sessions facilitate intentional discussions around these differences and can help teams shape new guidelines that accommodate the group. In this example, the team could use these insights to create a meeting schedule that fits everyone’s preferences. They could schedule shorter meetings to prevent that sense of overwhelm. They could also make most of their meetings a hybrid of in-person and virtual participation to accommodate both work location preferences.
DiSC allows teams to set day-to-day norms that keep generational differences from hindering team progress.
#4: Building meaningful relationships
When teams welcome a wider set of skills and experiences, they learn from each other and make better decisions.
The Academy to Innovate HR notes that meaningful working relationships contribute to company culture development and increased employee satisfaction. DiSC sessions allow team members to learn valuable information about each other, leading them to cultivate stronger workplace connections. Having working relationships with coworkers from other generations is especially important for employees, as coworkers from other generations can provide fresh insights and advice on how to tackle work challenges. This exchange of perspectives generates better results. Nikki Gonzales, Head of Growth and Partnerships at Quotebeam, explains how “Connecting dots between a wider set of skills and experiences is shown to lead teams to better decisions and more profit for companies.”
DiSC sessions can also reveal opportunities for intergenerational mentorship. Mentor/mentee relationships are a great way to leverage generational differences and expose your team members to new perspectives and ideas. Traditional mentor/mentee relationships position an older team member as a mentor and a younger team member as a mentee. These relationships help mentees with building skills, navigating work situations, and setting career goals.
In addition to these, “reverse mentoring” relationships, wherein a younger team member is the mentor and an older team member is the mentee, are becoming more common. In the late 1990s, GE’s Jack Welch used reverse mentoring to teach senior executives about the Internet. Today, the benefits of reverse mentoring extend beyond technical training. Junior employees can provide new approaches to strategy, leadership, workplace culture, and the attraction and retention of young talent. Arvind Patil, Country Manager at Selectra, elaborates on this exchange of perspectives.
“Each generation brings their own experiences and point of view. These different perspectives become a source of innovation, and harboring their strengths often fosters creative and out-of-the-box ideas.”
DiSC sessions reveal the information that teammates need to build strong interpersonal connections. The result? Stronger workplace relationships, opportunities for intergenerational mentorship, and increased employee satisfaction.
Multigenerational teams come with a wealth of different experiences, skills, and perspectives, giving them the potential to generate better business outcomes. While your team may not gel immediately, open conversation can build connections and unlock the power of intergenerational collaboration. Devoting intentional time to assessing and discussing individual preferences, strengths, motivators, and stressors with an Everything DiSC Workplace session is one way to accelerate this. Read more about how DiSC can help you build connected teams and cultivate a workplace culture that everyone can buy into, regardless of generational differences.