Understanding the Generations of Safety

September 6, 2019

With older generations retiring later than in the past, and the first trickle of Generation Z entering the workplace, many work teams are made up of four generations. As a health and safety manager, odds are you’ve seen this phenomenon take place on your own team, and it may be leaving you with some questions.

Every generation has different values, approaches to work and communication styles. It’s important to keep this in mind as you continue to develop a strong safety culture and a cohesive team.

Here are some tips for tapping into each generation’s strong points, and getting them to work together toward a positive and safe environment.

Know their strengths

Of course every individual on your team will have unique, personal strengths, but there are also some traits that tend to be common within each generation:

  • Boomers are known for their relentless work ethic and their job loyalty
  • Gen X’ers are known for their adaptability and independence
  • Millennials are good at collaborating and adapt well to changing technology
  • Gen Z’ers are innovative and good communicators

Rather than getting caught up in the negative stereotypes about each generation, focus on and leverage these positive traits. The result is a productive, confident team that respects each other’s strengths.

Help them understand each other Sometimes tensions arise when colleagues disagree on things like delegation, work-life balance and training. It’s difficult to develop a healthy team culture when people don’t feel understood or respected. Speak often about the value that everyone brings to the team. And keep everyone focused on your common goals – when you can regularly demonstrate that everyone is getting their job done and doing it well, how they got there becomes less important.

Foster good communication

Misunderstandings happen when people don’t communicate well. And in the safety business, misunderstandings are dangerous. Different members of your team will have different approaches and different ways of expressing themselves and may assume that everyone works the way they do. Encourage them to get to know each other’s communication style, and to slow down when communicating about potentially risky situations, spare no detail and document everything.

Find a shared language

When you’re working with such a diverse group of people, you have to try to find as much common ground as possible. Try to use tools or technology that everyone is comfortable with. Systems like Field Relay are built to support each generation. When you see good behaviour and team members sharing, reward them!