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A key element to consider when working with a diverse workforce is knowing how to adapt to different styles, and being flexible and open to dissimilar ideas.
Such issues gain precedence especially when you are a leader, and have to actively encourage such flexible thinking to allow your subordinates to embrace an atmosphere of change.
But this gets tricky when you’re dealing with senior employees who bring with them a history of organisational relationships and traditions that may carry more weight and influence than you do.
Here are a few ways you can negotiate that delicate balance between limiting and advocating change when dealing with more senior staff.
1. Learn from them
Acknowledging the seniority of such experienced employees is the first step in working with them. Denying their wealth of knowledge and influence will limit your own effectiveness as a leader and will also minimise your chances of earning respect from other members of your staff.
Identify older workers’ strengths, personality traits and inspiring methods, and highlight them to the rest of the organisation. This will make senior employees feel more valued and they will also be more open to listening to your suggestions of improvement once you’ve already identified things they are doing right.
2. Be ready to embrace differences
Learning how to deal with change is a key skill for any employee, but especially integral for the older generation of workers who are set in ways of working and greatly honour corporate traditions.
Get creative in helping the older generations understand why your new ways of thinking make sense. Blend new and old ways of working and explain the logic of such changes to these employees. Having served your organisation for a lengthy period of time, it is likely they will prioritise the growth of your company above all else, and be willing to any valuable suggestions you might have.
3. Educate yourself on their journey
While getting to know all classes of your employees is the first step to effective leadership, it is especially important when dealing with senior workers. Older generations want you to respect their ideas and ideals, and also exercise your influence to get them a voice at the table to make their jobs much more meaningful and purposeful. This requires a simultaneous appreciation and evaluation of their roles and ways of working.
This can only happen when you spend time with them and know their stories and backgrounds. Additionally, getting to know them at a personal level allows these employees to know you too, and fosters an understanding of your leadership styles. This eventually paves the way for a more supportive and insightful working relationship.
4. Be humble
Adopting a less authoritative tone when directing senior workers and being more patient is advisable for young leaders who are leading experienced teams.
It is undeniable that you are capable of leading employees older than you, and the organisation has given you the opportunity to prove it. Never take such an opportunity for granted, and instead openly admit to your mistakes and be accountable for whenever things go wrong. This will make your relationship with older employees less of a boss-worker nature, and will encourage them to feel more comfortable with you.