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Most companies consist of anywhere from dozens to thousands of employees, and these employees come in many shapes, sizes, and, most relevant for this post, ages. Employees often range from Boomers to Gen Z and everything in between, and these people often have different preferences, personalities, interests, and work styles.
What does this mean for you? Well, it means that there are often generational gaps in your workforce, or policies or practices that may work for certain generations but may frustrate others.
Like a symphony in perfect harmony, companies that know how to bring different generations together will perform at a high level and bring out the best in each other. But companies that ignore or even exacerbate these gaps will be more like a high school band, with many sour notes in the mix.
In this post, you’ll learn about each generation’s preferences, why it’s important to ensure everyone is comfortable and empowered at work, and how to bridge these gaps.
Understand the Generational Landscape
As a quick introduction to each generation, let’s look at the average tenure for each generation:
- Boomers: 8 years and 3 months
- Gen X: 5 years and 2 months
- Millennials: 2 years and 9 months
- Gen Z: 2 years and 3 months
This single stat already shows the vast differences in mindsets between the generations. Let’s look at some more common trends that run through each generation.
Boomers (Born 1955-1964)
Boomers were born and raised in a time of great workplace changes, especially after the Great Depression and two World Wars. They are often more traditional in their work habits and have great work ethics. They value clear paths for upward mobility at work and enjoy working independently.
Gen X (Born 1965-1980)
Gen X is one of the most populous generations in the workforce, with ages ranging from 44 to 59. They are experienced, confident, and sure of their career choices. They, like Boomers, are often independent and resourceful, and they thrive on the freedom to succeed on their own. They value a work-life balance and enjoy flexibility.
Millennials (Born 1981-1996)
Millennials are the largest segment in the workforce right now, and they’re projected to by 75% of the workforce by 2025. As digital natives, they prefer technology at work over non-digital tools. They’re also the least engaged employees of the bunch because many feel that their companies only value making money, not employee well-being. This has led to a lower average tenure than almost any other generation. They also put a lot of weight behind work-life balance and prefer to work remotely.
Gen Z (Born 1997-2012)
As the youngest generation in the workplace, Gen Z brings new trends and mindsets to the work environment. Gen Z values salary less than any previous generation—instead, they value interesting work, career development, strong core values, and diversity. They enjoy social connections, and they want the companies they work for to demonstrate their commitment to societal challenges.
The Cause of the Divide
There’s no one reason for the differences of opinions between different generations. People grow up and join the workforce during different times and face different challenges, which shapes their preferences and priorities.
And these gaps aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the variety of personalities and experiences create a wealth of different ideas that lead to great collaboration and helpful experience.
However, if your workforce only aims to satisfy one or two of these generations, you may find yourself with a large portion of your workforce disengaged and unsatisfied, which often leads to high turnover and wasted money.
So what can you do to bridge these gaps, bring generations together, and ensure everyone is happy while also embracing the differences that lead to greater success? Here are some ideas.
1. Foster Open Communication
One of the best things you can do is make sure communication is open and welcome. Encourage younger employees to ask questions of their older peers; allow everyone to share their opinions on company policies; and have leaders and managers practice active listening skills.
Another great way to foster communication and understanding is through mentoring. One-on-one mentoring between a younger employee and an older one is a great way to build mutual respect and trust.
Finally, ensure that there are some ground rules for internal communication. Things like memes or emojis are great for younger employees, but they may make older employees feel out of the loop. Instead, make sure chats, emails, and other messages are written in a multigenerational way.
2. Build a Shared Sense of Purpose
While Millennials and Gen Z employees crave for their work to have meaning, many Gen X and Boomer employees share similar thoughts. Your people want to feel like the time they spend at work has a purpose and an impact, and when everyone is working toward a shared goal, they’ll easily bridge any generational gap separating them.
This may take a little bit of leg work, such as talking with employees individually to see how they view their work, reorganizing responsibilities to ensure everyone is working on things they’re passionate about, and sharing how each employee’s work contributes to company success. But the work will be well worth it.
3. Make Your Workplace Flexible
Flexibility is a priority for many employees in every generation. It’s time to up our game in offering the flexibility that everyone needs, whether they’re a young mom, a single father, an middle-aged introvert, or anything else.
Flexibility is the single most important thing you can do to ensure that people of all ages feel empowered and welcomed at your organization.
Take flexibility even further by letting older employees continue to work but for shorter hours—one study showed that Boomers would rather work occasionally than retire fully. Part-time work can also be great for younger employees, depending on their situations.
4. Have Options for Compensation and Benefits
Different generations have different needs. For example, many millennials have young families, which can make work hard. Boomers and Gen X employees may be starting to accrue higher medical bills. Gen Z employees may have social obligations or may donate part of their time to charity.
These differences call for varied benefits instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, offering a stipend for caregiving can be a lifesaver for new parents, while financial guidance is helpful for any young professional (and many older ones, too!).
Also consider multiple medical insurance and 401(k) options to suit employees with different needs. And pay employees fairly based on their experience. Older employees who aren’t getting compensated fairly for their experience are likely to look for new opportunities.
5. Create Multigenerational Teams
The innovation of younger employees pairs beautifully with the experience and wisdom of older ones. These types of cross-generation teams are phenomenal tools for powerful innovation as well as creating more trust and understanding.
Train managers to be open to hiring both young and old employees, and recognize those who strive to build those types of teams.
Building Bridges That Bring People Together
Capturing the skills, experience, and strengths of different employees is key to success in 2024 and beyond. These diverse workforces will enjoy greater creativity, problem-solving, and innovation. With these strategies, hopefully, you’ll know how to take advantage of the strengths of all your employees and create a culture that only comes around once in a generation.
To learn more about bridging the gap between generations, and how employee recognition can be the key, check out our white paper!