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How to succeed at cross-generational working: from Baby Boomers to Millennials

Posted On: 13/09/2017

Is she even out of nappies?

He’s too old to ‘get’ how we do things now!

Why does our age define how good or bad we are at our jobs?

George Orwell said “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it” and we see this time and time again in the workplace.

As a nation, we’re obsessed with age. All too quickly, we label our colleagues, doctors, teachers and other professionals as either too young or too old for their job with our own generation the only ones which could possibly do a good job.

It’s true that reforms in education and pensions, advances in digital technology and colossal changes in the economy over the last 70 years, mean that each generation, from baby boomers to millennials, is living in a very different world with vastly different prospects for their long term wealth and their careers. We can’t ignore age-related differences as these things all shape how we live our lives.

As business owners in such a diverse world, however, we must see past these demographic differences and create a workplace which embraces these differences and uses them proactively to create a collaborative working culture for the benefit of each employee and the business as a whole. But how?

Encourage collaborative working

A diverse team with a range of experiences working in an environment where idea sharing and contribution to discussions is encouraged will enable more collaborative working. That way, colleagues from different generations can learn from each other.

All generations will benefit from an exchange of knowledge. With older workers in their 30s and 40s from the so-called ‘Generation X’ eager to learn from millennials about advances in digital technology and many Millennials keen to be mentored by someone with greater experience.

A culture of collaborative working and skill sharing will help to maximise the talent within a business as well as making employees feel valued and motivated.

See individuals not ages

Whilst workplace discrimination around gender, race and sexuality is now entirely socially unacceptable, it still seems fairly acceptable for people to judge each other based on age. And, sadly, it is still fairly common to hear age-related derogatory language in the workplace. With an aging population this is something that employers must get a grip on.

As a culture, we are all guilty of not always respecting and valuing the contributions and opinions of older generations and can, sometimes, be very dismissive of those just out of college or university. So this is something, as a society, we all need to change.

We must start by defining people by their own merits and their individual knowledge and experiences rather than labelling them based on their age.

Employers should be keen to attract a wide variety of people from different demographics to build a team rich in culture and experience. This will also help the business become more sustainable in the future as people live and work much longer.

Enable flexible working practices

It is inevitable that different people prefer to work in different ways and this is often the case with people from different generations so it’s a good idea to offer your staff a range of working options and different ways of learning as well as a choice of technology and where and how they prefer to work.

It is far better for employers to focus on individual productivity rather than how or where people get the job done. The more accommodating businesses are the most likely to keep their employees interested, engaged and productive.

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