Melding a multigenerational team at the workplace

Bringing together several generations allows people to learn from each other’s varied experiences. (Rawpixel pic)

The workplace of today is a melting pot of different generations. Today’s average office has:

  • Veterans (born 1930–1945)
  • Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964)
  • Generation Xers (born 1965–1976)
  • Generation Yers (born 1977–1990)
  • Millennials (born since 1991)

Now, more than ever, people from different generations must be able to work harmoniously. Two generations that stand out for their different viewpoints are the Baby Boomers and Millennials.

One management principle cannot work for all employees, so, how does one navigate their different approaches to work (without having to enlist the help of an office ninja)?

Dropping preconceived stereotypes, it is time to take a closer look at the boomer-millennial relationship, what motivates them in the workplace and how to improve office culture and create great teams, with some help from Google’s Project Aristotle.

1. Difference: Communication style

Baby Boomer: Boomers are traditionalists. They hold appropriateness and professionalism in high regard.

They prefer more formal communication such as memos, face-to-face conversations or phone calls. While they respond best to personal contact, boomers have adapted to email.

Millennial: These “digital natives” are comfortable with texting, the use of social networking sites, group messaging tools such as Slack, informal conversations and instant messaging.

In terms of communication, millennials look for a direct and immediate response.

Bridge the gap: Adapt. By using effective communication techniques, each employee can be reached through their preferred form of communication. When in doubt, email is a safe bet for initial contact.

Understand what each generation brings to the table and capitalise on it. (Rawpixel pic)

2. Difference: Working style

Baby Boomer: Boomers’ prefer to receive objectives and have control over their tasks.

They prefer a structured system for feedback and expect recognition for their work through pay raises and promotions.

Boomers like the traditional office environment and work hours.

Millennial: They are all for flexible work hours, working on-the-go and shared working spaces.

They look to get regular feedback, want immediate attention and prefer to get on-the-job mentoring. They like to feel like they are part of a community at work.

Bridge the gap: Encourage communication and feedback. Have one-on-one conversations with employees to find out what their working styles are and how both parties can contribute to the end goal.

Create diverse teams by mixing those from different age groups (and generations) together.

This allows both boomers and millennials to learn from each other’s varied experiences and background. Diversity in a team results in fresh conversations and solutions.

3. Difference: Career motivation

Baby Boomer: Boomers believe hard work pays off and are less likely to switch jobs often. What they earn goes towards providing a better lifestyle and to secure their future.

Boomers keep their private lives out of the office and are diligent workers. They believe in hierarchy and that you have to pay your dues before you can go up the corporate ladder.

Millennial: Money is not a millennial’s main motivator. They prefer to love what they do and value transparency in a leader and in the workplace.

Millennials want to know that their opinions matter. They like to be in the loop about their company’s plans for the future.

They do not care much for hierarchy in the workplace and believe any good idea (no matter the source) warrants acknowledgement.

The five keys to a successful Google team.

Bridge the gap: Understand what motivates employees regardless of what generation they come from. This means keeping their “individual motivators” in mind during the goal-setting process.

Make sure those goals are practical across the board, without favouring one generation over the other.

Connecting with employees will encourage them to connect with their co-workers. Invite their families along for company events, change workstations or seating arrangements to prompt conversation and spark communication.

4. Difference: Skillsets

Baby Boomer: Boomers’ are well-versed in the art of conversation. What some may lack in paper qualification, they make up for with their on-the-job experience and ability to connect in person. Their skills and professional capabilities are honed throughout the years they have worked.

Millennial: They are savvy, always connected and have the ability to pick up new skills and adapt easily. Change is a welcome constant for them.

Although it is the opinion of some that the millennial market is “oversaturated with advanced degrees and MBAs” their paper qualifications only get them so far.

Bridge the gap: Understand what each generation can bring to the table and recognise their value for what it is. Professional degrees, hard skills and soft skills all come into play in today’s workplace.

Set up skill building and knowledge sharing sessions for both baby boomers and millennials.

Take a proactive approach so everyone can learn something new together (and bond). For example, coding, formal presentation tips, how to master Microsoft Excel, basic coding, introduction to SEO.

This article first appeared in

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