Developing an Inclusive Mindset for Generations in the Workplace

June 20, 2022 | By: Devin Simon

George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

What do you think of when you hear the word mindset? What about growth mindset?

It is ideal, that we go into our workplace, with a growth mindset. People who have a growth mindset believe that even if they struggle with certain skills, their abilities aren’t set in stone. They believe that with hard work, collaboration and positivity, their skills can improve over time. People who have growth mindsets believe that they can always improve something, and that perseverance, learning, and listening will help accomplish anything and that it’s never too late to acquire an adaptive lens.

Developing an inclusive mindset in the workplace, and fostering that among a diverse group of employees, starts with a growth mindset. In order to learn and grow, you must first identify the fixed and unconscious lens and what you think you know about yourself and be willing to accept feedback in all forms.  When people’s lenses and capacities are fixed, and rigid, they’re more likely to focus on short-term goals, and may not be willing to give others the opportunity to present forward thinking success strategies. In other words, this can lead to people feeling excluded, less engaged, and unproductive.

Generations in the Workplace

Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z workers are filling commercial real estate establishments across cities, bringing a plethora of skills to the table, however different their vocabularies might be. Developing and nurturing the harmony among these diverse generations can be the difference between a productive corporation, to an innovative and thriving one. In other words, inclusivity is compulsory.

There are defining moments that people lug around in invisible backpacks all day every day, and these moments shape who we are. Understanding and embracing the differences of those we surround ourselves with day-in and day-out is imperative to productivity and satisfaction within the workplace.

When we shut one another down, and we do not consider input from the top down and likewise from the bottom up then we take away a huge component of a growth mindset lens, communication. It takes effort to understand our differences and celebrate what makes each of us unique. And when there is willingness and inclusivity, we feel seen. When we are seen, we thrive.

Let’s take a look at the Baby Boomers, a group of professionals born from 1946 – 1964. The work ethic, ambition, and optimism they bring to the workplace is paramount. The experiences they’ve had should be respected, and we should utilize their knowledge in all areas. Creating the opportunities to listen to who came before you, will help you to get where you want to go. And honoring the history Baby Boomers have shared is a way to do that.

Diversity and inclusion committees have a responsibility to recognize the important days of remembrance that span throughout all our generations. Letting us pause and learn the past, what each generation has learned independently in real time, allows us to expand our thinking, which only increases our ability to be empathetic. For example, using Black History Month to highlight the key moments in the Civil Rights Movement, can create a dialogue worth having.

Listening to those who have experienced the pain and triumph from this time has many advantages. One, we must not let what was unjust be repeated. Knowledge gives us that power. And the stories from those who lived during that time of protest and change, can see themselves in those now, who are still looking to be seen. Many are still fighting, and when we learn about each other, and from one another, we might see our differences are not so vast. How do we not overlook generational similarities?

One of the many generational activities I participated in while receiving my Inclusive Leadership Certificate through CRE Insight Journal in partnership with BOMA Georgia that created an unknown connection with other CRE colleagues was name the movie, music, and games played when we were younger.  We cannot be ageist and assume technological advances will be over the heads of some. There is value to creating a variety of solutions to meet the different needs of all of us.

Strength in Mentorship

Mentorship amongst generations creates inclusivity. The mentor and mentee working together increases employee satisfaction and talent retention. Mentors can also provide psychological support for their mentees and offer another moment to view the CRE environment from a different lens. Mentorship engages and motivates employees and enhances leadership skills in current and future managers.

Accountability strengthens from mentorship, as does teamwork, time management and internal networks. In turn, the mentee is beneficial to the mentor. Mentees can help to develop ideas and look at situations from a different perspective. The mentee might be more willing to take risks, which can create exciting opportunities in the workplace.

It’s important to remember that diversity doesn’t always mean inclusivity. Creating an inclusive environment takes time, buy-in and should be implemented from a leadership team. This team can create professional development that is worthwhile for all employees. One of the challenges of that team is to model inclusive language across all generations.

For example, let’s not use the word wife or husband, but spouse or partner. Let’s put pronouns in our email signatures. An inclusive leadership team must build trust, and check-in with employees often. Is everyone feeling heard? Respected? Valued? Employees should feel safe to have a dialogue about their generational experiences they’re having together and independently in the workplace. Creating a way to allow for feedback is extremely important. And as important as the feedback is, the same goes for what to do when an employee isn’t experiencing the inclusive environment that is deserved.

Being inclusive means expanding the company holiday calendar. Diversity and Inclusion committees should be celebrating and acknowledging all our histories. Juneteenth, Ramadan, and Diwali are just as valuable as Christmas and Hannukah. Creating events and initiatives surrounding this calendar is also important. For example, celebrating Pride Month in June by having a mixer or asking a guest speaker to come in during lunch fosters inclusivity.

Celebrating performance and recognizing employee engagement each quarter increases productivity, too. Earning small incentives is rewarding and fun for all.  Inclusivity means having a building that is ADA-compliant. Employees and visitors with disabilities should feel safe and welcome in all areas of the workplace. Our goal is to make sure assistive technology is available if needed, and all employees should learn the rights of one another in order to build awareness and equality.

An Inclusive Mindset

While we learn about our generational differences, it is important to stay away from stereotypes and generalizations. That only creates intergenerational conflict and misunderstandings. Employees must fight unconscious bias and be willing to view others from an unfixed lens. Identifying generational gaps and unconscious bias can be measured by using the Harvard implicit bias test. Only when we are honest with ourselves, can we then change for the better, and learn from one another. Baby Boomers might think Millennials are tech-obsessed, and Millennials might think Generation Z employees are inflexible. To create inclusion, we must accept individuals based on their merits.

The commercial real estate industry needs all of us: property managers, C-Suite, accountants, HR, leasing agents, electricians, engineers, janitorial, security, plumbers, parking managers, general contractors, tenants, architects, and I could go on. All of us have a shared purpose in the workplace no matter which generational age group we are defined under.

That purpose should be communicated often, while fostering a culture of acceptance, focusing on individual strengths, and reducing barriers to communication. Differentiating communication styles is key, and adapting to the needs of employees, while still prioritizing a shared purpose. We all have something important to add. We all have a story worth telling. And we all have a story worth hearing.

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