3 Tips for Reaching Across Generations…and Miles

By using technology to its best advantage, leveraging each generation’s strengths, and creating and reinforcing a strong company culture, businesses that employ offsite employees can successfully engage their multigenerational workforce.

More than a third of U.S. employees telecommute at least part of the time, according to Gallup. And thanks to technology that allows people to work from virtually anywhere, more and more companies are dispensing with office space altogether and becoming 100 percent virtual.

That’s a positive development for home-based employees, who express greater job satisfaction than counterparts who commute to an office every day. And it’s a good thing for companies, too, which benefit from reduced facilities and equipment maintenance expenses and happier, more productive workers.

But from a training and development standpoint, remote workforces present new challenges, and since virtual workforces are no longer confined to startups, they include more multigenerational staff. Here are three tips that can help training and development professionals reach across generations and distance:

  1. Maximize use of technology: Technology makes virtual workforces possible—with collaboration platforms, social media, telepresence equipment, etc., remote teams can work together seamlessly, attend meetings as effectively as if they are all in the same room, and stay on the same page as projects unfold, whether in a work or training situation.

Millennial employees typically take to technology like ducks to water, so it’s usually not a challenge to get them on board with technical tools. Generation X workers may not be digital natives, but most are tech savvy enough to quickly learn unfamiliar platforms with minimal training, as are the youngest Baby Boomers, who have adapted to technology over the course of their careers.

Older Baby Boomers—and the non-tech savvy of any age—may require additional training on the use of new technology tools. But training and development staff will find the added investment of time well worth their effort since these employees often have valuable experience to share. With daily use, the new platforms soon will become second nature.

  1. Play to each generation’s strengths: Millennials tend to be mission focused and flexible. They value social consciousness and are drawn to companies that make them feel they are a part of something greater than themselves. Companies that give Millennials that type of connection will spark enthusiasm among their youngest employees.

Gen Xers are typically more individualistic than their younger peers, and at this point in their careers, many are looking for leadership roles. Companies that provide them with an assignment and team to manage, then get out of their way and let them accomplish their tasks, can find able project leaders.

Baby Boomers usually bring considerable experience to the table, so they can make excellent mentors for younger staff. They are typically loyal and driven employees, and these traits often extend into their willingness to learn technologies and processes to do their jobs more effectively.

  1. Build a strong company culture: One perceived disadvantage of a remote workforce is the isolation of individual employees, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Businesses that intentionally create a strong, vibrant company culture can ensure that remote workers feel connected and motivated—no matter where they’re located.

It starts with communicating company values and cultivating trust. In multigenerational workforces, employees might respond in various ways, with Millennials connecting with the idea of a mission, Gen Xers responding to transparency, and Boomers developing a sense of loyalty.

Technology can be a useful tool in culture development. For example, an employee-only Website can function as a virtual water cooler, allowing employees to swap tips and share stories. Communication is the key. When employees understand the company’s mission, vision, and values, and managers and trainers consistently reinforce them, it’s possible to create a strong culture in a virtual workforce.

Since remote workforces offer many benefits to workers and employers, and technology tools are making it easier than ever to work from anywhere, expect the uptick in offsite employee hiring to continue. Delivering an exceptional HR experience and excellent training services to remote employees takes a specific strategy, but companies are doing it with great success.

Just as their counterparts do in a traditional workplace, remote employees span age demographics, and Training and Development professionals must find a way to optimize worker knowledge retention. By using technology to its best advantage, leveraging each generation’s strengths, and creating and reinforcing a strong company culture, businesses that employ offsite employees can successfully engage their multigenerational workforce—across the years and the miles.

Tricia Sciortino is the Chief Operating Officer of BELAY. She joined BELAY in November 2010 as a virtual assistant and the first employee of the company. She has a background in senior retail management, including experience overseeing a team of more than 150 employees and supporting senior leaders in the church construction industry.

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