Many companies today have as many as five different generations working together in the same organization.
- Traditionalists—born before 1946
- Baby Boomers—born between 1946 and 1964
- Generation X—born between 1965 and 1976
- Generation Y, or Millennials—born between 1977 and 1997
- Generation Z—born after 1997
The advantages to having a wide array of experiences, expertise, and viewpoints can be immense for organizations that can manage these generations effectively. For those that cannot, the downside can be devastating. So how do you successfully navigate the challenge of integrating such a diverse generational workforce?
Emphasize Common Beliefs
Instead of constantly harping on the difference between the generations, work hard to find common ground. Regardless of their age, every one of these generations shares a belief in family, doing quality work, making a difference in the world, and contributing to society. Yes, they come at these beliefs from different angles, but there is still a strong foundation of shared values.
Do not allow the different generations to create cliques among themselves, excluding the other generations. Put people from different generations on the same team, assign a boomer and a millennial to work together as partners. Create situations where they have to work together to learn, respect, and embrace each other’s attitudes and work styles.
Create a formal program where people from the older generations serve as mentors to younger employees. Let the older folks show them the ropes, give them advice, and benefit from their many years of experience. The younger employees will gain important knowledge from their elders and appreciate the unique value they can offer.
Create a “Reverse Mentoring” Program
I’ve used this technique in several client companies. Assign brand-new employees to mentor the older employees in technology and current trends. This helps the older employees understand the tremendous amount of information and skills that the younger generations have. This will create respect for their technological savvy.
Treat the Different Generations Differently
Although there might be a shared foundation of core values, each of these generations has a significantly different view on career and life. Study your employees carefully to build programs and incentives to reward each generation with what they value most. Boomers tend to value position, title and salary. While Millennials value time with their family and friends, flexibility, personal growth, and making a difference in the world. Trying to please all of the different generations with the same sort of rewards and motivation will not work.
Create a Formal Training Program
The problem isn’t having five generations in the same organization. It’s the tensions that arise from the generations not understanding each other. Going to a training class on social styles can strongly impact how a team works together; training your employees on the differences between the generations and how to have empathy and understanding for each generation’s work styles can help them better understand each other to get along more effectively.
Resistance is Futile
One last piece of advice, attempting to ignore or refuse to deal with the generational differences is a recipe for disaster. I recently worked in a large organization and a senior manager told me the younger employees would have to learn to do things the way he wanted them done. I told him this meant unemployment for him or bankruptcy for the company. Soon Millennials will make up the bulk of the workforce and attempting to make them conform to the “way we’ve always done it around here” is not an effective strategy.
In conclusion, success in the future means integrating five very different generations into one cohesive team. This will be a great challenge for many managers and organizations and, in time, lead a company to greater success.
If you want to get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you. Please visit my site at https://johnspence.com/contact/ and let me know how I can help.