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Multi-Generational Workforce: How We Play Nice Together in the Sandbox of Work

Solution Strategies Your Business can Employ Within a Multi-Generational Workforce

Learning to play nice in a sandbox isn’t just for preschoolers or kindergarteners. When you get out into the working world, it can be an adjustment learning how to work with and manage a multi-generational workforce. 

Each generation is shaped by the experiences they had during their youth. This means that they have different views and communication styles. Add in memes flying around online about different generations poking fun at each other or amplifying stereotypes, and all of that could have the potential to create misunderstandings at work. 

So how can we learn to play nice together at work? What are some of the challenges of dealing with a multi-generational workforce? And what are the benefits of having different age groups working together to solve your company’s biggest challenges? Let’s get into all that and more as we take a deep dive into multi-generational workforces.

Back to Basics

Before we get into the weeds, let’s step back and get a picture of what makes each generation tick. When you know how a generation operates, you’ll understand how your company culture applies to that generation, where they thrive best, and how best to manage that generation.

Baby Boomers: This generation was born between 1946 and 1964 and are known for their focus on self-realization and self-fulfillment. They make up nearly 30% of the workforce, with millions of them expected to retire over the coming years. They are known for their strong work ethic, company loyalty, preference for face-to-face communication, and excelling at being team players. One of the biggest benefits of having Baby Boomers in your workforce is their intrinsic knowledge of the company and their willingness to share their expertise with younger generations.

Gen X: This generation, born between 1965 and 1979, is known as the “sandwich generation” as they are currently caring for both children and elderly parents. Gen X is known for being independent, entrepreneurial, their love of opportunities for personal and professional growth, plus their want of flexibility and a healthy work-life balance. They tend to want authentic leaders who are more “hands-off” in their management approach. One of the benefits of having Gen Xers on your team is that they are often viewed by co-workers and peers as experts when it comes to generating revenue and building teams. 

Millennials: Born between 1980 and 1995, Millennials currently make up 34% of the workforce. They are digital natives, having grown up during the birth of the internet and newer technologies, which impacts how they do everything, from communication to relationships. They are known for being ethnically diverse, valuing social responsibility, a want for meaningful work that makes a difference, and a healthy work-life balance. But don't’ view this generation as slackers! They will play a key role in knowledge-transfer initiatives among leaders and ongoing company success. 

Gen Z: Born between 1996 and 2010, this generation has been trickling into the workforce over the past several years. They are the most technology-savvy generation but that isn’t the only thing that makes them unique. Gen Z is also known to be highly focused on having a positive impact in the world plus having high entrepreneurial aspirations. Because of these unique characteristics, Gen Zers are poised to become the leaders of the future. 

Challenges and Their Solutions

There are three major challenges that we think will play the biggest role for HR and companies in the coming years. The first is of course communication between the different generations. Each generation has its own unique communication style. As noted earlier, Boomers have a preference for face-to-face communication, while Millennials and Gen Z much prefer digital forms of communication, such as email, messaging apps, or text. Gen X strikes a balance between the older and younger generations as they appreciate both email and face-to-face interactions. 

Digging a little deeper than just communication preferences, are the possibilities for miscommunication. Managers should focus on strategies aimed at fostering understanding, promoting empathy, and enhancing communication effectiveness across the generations. Here are some of those strategies:

  • Create an environment that encourages asking questions and assumptions are clarified. This will help avoid making assumptions or creating misinterpretations.

  • Allow younger generations to assist their older counterparts in becoming tech-savvy and in return, encourage older generations to offer younger generations their valuable insights based on their extensive experience.

  • Provide a variety of flexible communication methods and styles while encouraging team members to be open-minded and adaptable to new communication channels. 

The second biggest challenge when it comes to multi-generational workforces is the loss of intrinsic knowledge. Baby Boomers are hitting retirement age and they have that intrinsic knowledge of the company and industry that young or new people coming up just don’t have. And if that is a problem, then why aren’t we mentoring more? 

To continue growing on your company’s success, don’t miss the boat! Rather, tap into the wealth of knowledge that Baby Boomers have and pass on that important intrinsic knowledge they have to younger generations. To do this, companies should consider creating a formalized mentoring or coaching program. When you have new, young hires come in, pair them up with someone from one of the older generations to be their mentor and to help pass on their knowledge. You might even consider shifting those who are approaching retirement to a different role, that of mentor. 

The third challenge we see companies facing is how to train new employees and Gen Zers. It’s important to keep in mind the communication style of the generation. Gen Z employees appreciate visually stimulating messages, such as shorter YouTube-like training videos. Consider breaking your training up into chunks so that each session of information can have its full chance to sink in, rather than dumping all they need to know on them all at once. 

Get Help From the HR Experts

Rigid, “old-school” HR practices no longer work. At Alchemy HR, we understand the challenges today’s multi-generational workforce presents. Our expertise with talent assessment and management yields a creative and modern approach that gets the best from your team, regardless of their age mix. Learn more about our People and Leader Performance services that help you with implementing mentorship/coaching, management training, career pathing and so much more! Connect with us today to get started. 

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