5 ways to build a healthy intergenerational workplace

Follow these five principles to unite your intergenerational team. Bullhorn's Peter Linas writes.

The modern workplace is a diverse environment. In many cases, it accommodates a wide range of backgrounds, abilities, personalities, and experiences. This wide range of skilled employees, from millennial graduates to industry veterans, adds strength to your business and improves its ability to compete with the very best. Cultural disparity, however, can also give rise to some communication mishaps that can affect productivity and morale.

In light of this, it’s now more important than ever for businesses to take a pioneering approach to issues such as employee engagement, skills development, corporate social responsibility, work-life balance, and parental leave, in order to bridge the generational gap and create a healthy, collaborative, and successful working culture.

At Bullhorn, we’ve implemented several policies to manage this, centred on five principles that all companies can apply:

Support a healthy work-life balance

One defining characteristic of modern employees is their pursuit of a healthy work-life balance. You may find that many of your staff members value this over financial bonuses or perks.

It’s therefore vital that you and your management teams recognise how important this balance is for your employees – and encourage it company-wide. Show your support by putting in place policies that help all employees achieve this goal.

These could include unlimited holidays (letting employees choose when and how much leave to take), the ability to work from home whenever necessary, and more generous primary care leave for employees that are starting a family.

Give back to your communities

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives help engage employees outside of ‘business as usual’ work. Senior directors will find themselves side-by-side with junior executives, volunteering their time and energy to support a common cause.

CSR activities help connect employees across generations and corporate hierarchies, fostering greater teamwork, pride, and purpose. They can be especially effective when they are built directly into your company’s value system.  For example, our ‘Bullhorn Cares’ initiative involves fundraising and strong involvement in community improvement programmes, while also giving our employees four days during the year to volunteer at an organised charity event of their choice.

Establish a company ‘rallying cry’

Core company values unite employees with a common sense of purpose. Everyone needs to know these values and work towards them – regardless of who they are or where they sit at the boardroom table. Your company’s values are what define and differentiate your business. They will inform how people view your organisation from within, as well as help forge its reputation in the market.

However, it can be difficult to ensure that values are instilled throughout a company. It’s mistakenly viewed as a ‘soft issue’ by many companies and often gets relegated to the back-burner. One idea that we’ve implemented is really simple and proven to be very effective. Each employee gets a ‘rally cry’ booklet that contains our core company values and mission statement. We take it one step further by using a scorecard to rate how well staff adopt our values and use them in their everyday work.

Celebrate individuals and build teams

Your company should operate as a solid unit, but one that also recognises individuals. Don’t just listen to the loudest voice – allow all staff to speak up, and encourage challenging perspectives. We’ve put our money where our mouth is and created the HERd initiative. It gives space for female staff to meet, share experiences, and brainstorm ideas for an even better workplace.

Group socials are critical as they ensure that the company gets together outside of working hours. Some ideas that have worked for us are: a round of drinks on the first Thursday of every month, free lunch on Wednesdays, a celebratory summer event, various team-building activities throughout the year and a fantastic end-of-year party. These events give our teams a chance to socialise away from the office and get to know each other as people, not just colleagues.

Prioritise career development

Staff retention is an issue for most modern businesses. Employees that don’t feel challenged or entrusted with greater responsibilities will look for other opportunities. Younger professionals are often eager to explore their options, and it’s not uncommon for them to move between several jobs in a short space of time. The problem with constantly searching for something better is that it can stifle an individual’s career development. Every person you hire needs to be encouraged to progress in their role and to be offered opportunities to grow with the business.

When job vacancies open up, a good approach is to always look within your company for potential candidates to promote rather than recruit externally from the get-go. Our managers will always encourage their team members to pursue a career within Bullhorn, and they work hard to keep our top employees satisfied. This focus has paid off for us; a high percentage of the management team at Bullhorn have been promoted from within and, as such, are strong, committed leaders.

Your business is only as good as the people you have on board with you. Don’t be afraid of diversity, and don’t try to mould everyone into a carbon copy of each other. Rather, encourage people to step out of their comfort zones and try new things A united, intergenerational workplace is a dynamic environment that produces happy, productive people and, ultimately, better business.

Peter Linas is the international managing director at Bullhorn.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.