With advancements in medical technology and healthier lifestyles, Australians are living longer. And for some Australians, this also means they are working longer; some well after the retirement age of 65 in order to ensure they can live out their retirement comfortably without the fear of running out of money.

As a result of these extended working lives, we are also seeing a very broad representation of ages and generations throughout the workforce and in our project teams. As Conrado Morlan points out on the PMI’s Voice on Project Management blog, it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the generational gaps in your team in order to ensure an effective team working environment.

Generational gaps can provide a wealth of different experience, perspectives and working practices in your team which can be very beneficial. But clashes between different generation’s schools of thought can also cause problems within your team and effect the way the project is managed.

For example, we know that people of different generations often prefer different communication methods, working processes and tools to help them do their job. Whilst it is very important for each individual organisation to recognise and understand the generational differences unique to their own organisation, the technology they choose to assist project teams can also play a part in helping to bridge generational gaps.

Technology has made huge advancements in last 20 years or so, and there will be some people in your team who have grown up with technology at the forefront of their lives, and others who have had to adapt to the new developments, and sometimes reluctantly. That’s why it’s important for project management software to have different aspects to suit users of all different generations.

When I look at IPM, I can see there are a number of features to suit many different generations, and all these features can work together help project teams with deal with generational gaps. For example:

  • An Excel import/export facility for the older project manager who has relied on Excel to manage projects for most of his or her working life
  • Simple Outlook integration for the middle aged team member who has spent most of his or her project management career in the internet/email age and done most of their communication through email
  • Smart phone access, simple customisations and user defined workflows for the tech savvy 20 something project team member who has grown up in the technology boom and whose career is just beginning during the advent of virtual communication and smart phone apps.

All of these features play to the strengths of different members of the team, and can enhance the positive aspects of each different generation in your team. So as our quality of life improves and we find ourselves working longer past the ‘traditional’ working age, it’s more important than ever to understand generational gaps in our project teams and employ tools and strategies to make sure each generation has a way of contributing to the project team that suits them.