Morgan BrowningAs a leader in your organization, one of your most important responsibilities is to build and support a collaborative team. After all, collaboration is one of the keys to your company’s success.

In fact, a Stanford study showed that participants who were “primed to act collaboratively stuck at their task 64 percent longer” than those working alone and that they reported “higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels, and a higher success rate”.

While we know collaboration is critical to helping your organization reach its goals, it can feel like an uphill battle when you have to manage five different generations in the workplace – and their stereotypes.

When you are able get your multi-generational team to work together, your company and your employees will reap the benefits. By utilizing the experience and commitment of your senior staff, harnessing the enthusiasm and knowledge of your junior employees and engaging the unique perspectives each team member brings, your team will be better equipped to reach their goals, support your organization’s mission and be happier while doing it.

So, how do you effectively build a collaborative team when you have a multigenerational workforce?

1. Look for commonalities – not stereotypes. All generations want to be engaged, and everyone craves respect. These traits transcend generations and should be a focus for you as the leader.

When you are working with your team, avoid falling into stereotypes and encourage your team members to consider how we are alike. Using a tool like Emergenetics® can help you create a common language about your team’s thinking and behavioral preferences as well as establish commonality between your multigenerational team members. With better understanding of ourselves and others, these areas of difference start to be seen as a source of value – not negativity.

2. Demonstrate respect. Each of your team members was hired for a reason, and they bring unique perspectives to the team. As a leader, it is important that you set the tone, showing your respect for the experience of your senior team members as well as the potential of your younger employees.

3. Create an environment of open communication. You can’t have strong collaboration without effective communication. To positively channel generational diversity in the workplace, you need to create an environment where each member of your team has a forum to be heard and feels confident that their input will be respected, even if the team chooses an alternative direction.

As a leader, you can foster open communication by being transparent and encouraging your employees to provide their insights, ideas and feedback – both positive and negative. When faced with negative feedback, make sure that you set the example by listening without interruption while your employees share their perspectives. Ask clarifying questions to understand their point of views. Only after you understand their perspectives should you discuss areas of agreement or disagreement and clarify your own viewpoint.

4. Embrace individual perspectives. Your employees have different ways of thinking and behaving – and this is a good thing. Let your team know that you value their individual experiences. Leveraging tools like Emergenetics or other assessments can help you gain clarity around the perspectives of your team members and help you tailor your communication style to match that of each teammate. Further, by sharing how each of your team members think, you can help them better understand each other’s preferences and appreciate the unique perspectives they bring to the table, no matter their age.

5. Make collaborating easier. Collaboration shouldn’t be saved for a weekly team meeting; your multigenerational workforce needs to collaborate regularly. Give them different channels for collaboration like meetings, text, email, phone calls and social media. Tools like Google Hangouts, Skype for Business, and Yammer can also further connect your workforce. Don’t assume that your older employees aren’t interested in using these tools (see tip #1). By setting the expectation that you want to see regular collaboration and providing different channels to do so, you will foster greater cohesion in your team.

While it may seem difficult to bridge generational diversity in the workplace, doing so will help you create a thriving team that uses the knowledge and perspective of each team member to collaboratively and effectively address your company’s challenges and opportunities.

By discarding stereotypes and embracing open communication, individuality and collaboration, you can help your multigenerational workforce work well together and deliver on their personal and organizational goals.