Can you really get employees from different generations work together? Yes you can bridge the workplace generation gap. As I work with client organizations I constantly hear voices of frustration. It could involve a catering manager who says “The kids today don’t want to work. I can’t get any good help.” It might be a manager of a team of professionals complaining about the unwillingness of the younger members to work endless hours. Or it can be frustration from an employee who feels he or she can’t compete with the new workers and the new technology.
Really, this is nothing new. In fact it goes back to ancient Greece when Aristotle said, “The young people would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning.”
Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. They were associated with many of the social changes that occurred in the 60’s. They believe in achievement, hard work and long hours. They grew up in an ever expanding post war America. Generation Xérs were born between 1965 and 1979. They grew up seeing corporate downsizing and were latch key kids with both parents working. They tend to be free agents and like to manage themselves. They are technically savvy, pragmatic, and competent. Generation Y or Millennial’s were born between 1980 and 2005. Fortune Magazine described them as the most high maintenance generation but also the most promising. They are technologically sophisticated, driven to make a difference, and thirst for positive feedback.
Here are a few things you should consider. Baby Boomers want respect. Include them in projects and encourage sharing of their vast experience. Allow them to lead projects with others. Generation X’ers do not like to be micro managed. They love to be given problems to solve and be challenged. They can easily multi task. Millennials want to know how their work will contribute to the project. They like mentoring, and look for a large commitment up front. They need frequent check ins and full disclosure. However, they need help with their communication skills and collaborative problem solving.
Now here is an example: Recently, I heard a Baby Boomer talking to members of a networking group about using LinkedIn. He suggested having a teenager do it. Well, if he were to do that the profile might look similar to something from a college dorm room. That is because a Millennial knows the technology but requires communication skills and wants mentoring. A better approach would be for the Boomer mentor the Millennial on networking communication, reaching target audiences. Next learn how to work with and engage each of the generations on the LinkedIn profile and other social media. I guarantee that the Millennial will crave the knowledge and the mentoring and together they will work on a first class social media strategy.
We can conclude that every generation has strengths. Harness and engage those strengths to make a more vibrant and prosperous organization.