When your team starts working virtually, some people are going to adjust to the situation better, and perhaps faster, than others. You may find that you get very different responses to the very concept of working virtually from team members of varying ages.
Here are some technology and management considerations to take into account when managing a multi-generational virtual team.
If some team members are young enough to have been around computers most of their lives, it’s reasonable to expect they will be comfortable with the idea of virtual working.
Younger employees are more likely to be comfortable with the technologies that go along with working online, but that may not always hold true. For instance, while a younger team member may be very comfortable with social collaboration tools, she will likely need training when it comes to industry-specific applications.
Younger members of the workforce, especially those in Generation Y, may need more management feedback, and may expect a more collaborative work environment, than their predecessors. While Generation X-ers may have a preference for handling projects on their own, Generation Y members may struggle in a virtual work environment because of the reduced feedback that often happens in such situations.
While the situation is not simply a matter of age — Generation Y-ers are showing similarities to previous generations as they age — you do need to take the age of your team members into account when managing a virtual workforce. You need to make sure that you’re providing a work environment that supports them, whether they need an in-depth support network, as a Millennial might, or whether they want you to cut the interference and get out of their way, as a member of Generation X might.
Beyond Age Differences
The names of different generations, from Millennials to Baby Boomers, are simply shorthand for general trends. Employees of the same generation will never be identical. While you can certainly expect management techniques to change, the most important thing is to keep an eye on individual team members. The best way to minimize the issues that go along with online team collaboration is to pay attention to what’s really going on. You can prepare for certain eventualities by looking at generational trends, but you can’t implement every management technique your team needs until you see the team in action.
That said, it is certainly worth your while to read up on proven techniques for managing the age groups you’re working with. Having specialized tools will let you find the best answers. After all, by working with a virtual team, you have less face-to-face interaction on which to judge situations. Having a few extra techniques is the least you can do to make up for that lack.
How do you bridge the “generation gap” among team members?