Every generation has its strengths and weaknesses, and there’s plenty of analysis to go along with that. In office settings, the good and the bad may be at play (and at odds) with each other.
How can business leaders and CEOs blend a staff made up of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials? There can be challenges, but it’s manageable.
Let’s start with examining each of the three. Cy Wakeman writes about this for Forbes, and describes generational motivations this way:
- Baby Boomers: “Older employees have experience, credibility and wisdom in their favor. They’ve been in the game for a long time and have absolutely earned it. Encourage them to document what they’ve learned and be open to sharing their trade secrets with others so that they may benefit. Help them understand that judging younger generations or shaming them for not having as much experience is a waste of energy that isn’t helpful to your organization.”
- Generation X: “Help Gen X employees who are in the midst of their career become the bridge builders. They are in the unique position of seeing how both older and younger generations function at work, so they have great translation skills to offer. Encourage them to remain open to what all age groups bring to the table and help in the promotion of cross-functional teams. The knowledge and insights they glean from Millennials and Boomers will make them invaluable members of your team.”
- Millennials: “Millennials bring a tremendous amount of value and new skills to the workplace, particularly when it comes to technical savvy. Their approach is highly creative and can lead to greater efficiency. Help younger professionals understand the importance of blending the old with the new. Encourage them to seek out mentors who can help them learn, grow and understand the complexity and history of their organization.”
The ideal workplace scenario would be an optimal blend of these elements, so that employees of all ages contribute to the overall success. Meghan Biro has three recommendations for achieving this in a story for Forbes. She also includes “traditionalists” as a fourth generation, made up of people born before 1945, the smallest group in the workforce.
- Recognition: The generations have varying views on the value of being rewarded, so avoid the “one-size-fits-all” plan, she says. “When you understand what motivates (or sets off) certain generational groups or individuals, you can tailor your response, build more effective teams, and adjust recognition and reward programs.”
- Know universal truths: Despite the generational differences, there are fundamental basics that aren’t bound by age, according to Biro: “No one likes surprises; everyone craves respect; everyone wants to feel included in the forward motion of the organization; everyone hungers to learn, and we all need pretty continuous feedback. Build your culture on the shared needs of the multigenerational workforce and you’ll see fewer cracks in the foundation.”
- Emphasize teamwork: “There’s a place for everyone in the world of work,” Biro writes. “The work ethic of Traditionalists can inspire all groups. The optimism of Boomers can help all employees see the positives in the organization. The skepticism of Gen X will keep everyone honest. The enthusiasm and self-confidence of Millennials is infectious and inspiring if it’s channeled. Teams are made up of individuals with a shared goal; build your organization’s goals around a shared sense of work and responsibility, a sense of optimism, healthy skepticism, enthusiasm, and confidence in the organization’s mission.”