Generation Gaps: How to Bridge Your Employees Together

Recently a client of ours has reflected to us that they were struggling with having their younger and older employees work together effectively. Generation gaps mean that these employees grew up in very distinct environments. This includes different education systems and work culture — leading up to contrasting working styles as well.

Generation Gaps

Currently, 90% of the workforce is made up from individuals in the following age categories:

  • Baby Boomers: those who were born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X: those who were born between 1965 and 1980
  • Millennials: those who were born between 1981 and 1996

The rest of the 10% is made up of the Silent Generation (born between 1928-1945) and Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012). However, we see most age-related disparities in work style from the three groups listed above.

Having employees from diverse age groups can be very beneficial as they have varying levels of experience. Contrasting approaches to tasks can shed light on new perspectives to maximize efficiency. How can we help create and facilitate a work environment where employees from different age groups can work well together?

Communication Methods

A few weeks back, our article about modern-age texting talked about spontaneity and creativity blooming from the informal ways of the younger generation. This burst of ideas is good, but how can we make sure it gets communicated properly?

  • Try setting up meeting times specifically for idea exchanges.
  • Some employees may feel alienated with just one method of communication that is not their preferred method. Utilize and interchange between multiple methods of communication such as in-person meetings, conference calls, slack messages, and emails.
  • Be an active listener. Listen to your employees when they’re presenting – you can go back to check messages, but you can’t rewind face-to-face conversations.
  • Avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions.

Uptraining When Needed

Arguably, one of the most apparent source of work style discrepancies between these age groups is the different exposure to technology growing up. For example, many of the technologies we have today was nonexistent when Baby Boomers entered the workforce. Phones, emails, computers were brand new technology that Baby Boomers had to adapt to at one point.

On the other hand, Millennials grew up with computers around them and were exposed to using computers very early on in their career. Therefore, they are much more comfortable with using such technology.

  • Check-in with your employees regularly to see if there are any work tools they are struggling with. Some older employees may not have had the opportunity to learn how to use computers the same way a millennial was able to in school.
  • Find the best combination of work tools for your team. Don’t fixate on using certain technologies or practices just because “everybody else is using it” or “this is always how it’s been”
  • Know your employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Delegate tasks accordingly and efficiently.

Experience Comes with Age

Putting technology aside, it’s also important to recognize valuable assets only older employees can bring. Like we discussed in an article earlier this year, certain notes of experience, wisdom, and confidence can only be found with age. Cognitive diversity is just as crucial as familiarity with technology for the performance of your team.

  • The main predictors of job performance – knowledge and expertise – continues to increase even beyond the age of 80.
  • Older employees are often more stable and more likely to stay with the same employer.
  • Good work ethics and maturity meaning less supervision is needed.
  • Along with having more knowledge, older employees also retain business networks gathered over the years.

Be Aware of Ageism

In the U.S., the EEOC’s Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEC) strictly “forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older”. This act also extends to all employee ages in that it is “unlawful to harass a person because of his or her age”. Starting from the recruitment process, HR managers should try to be mindful of any potential biases you may hold.

At the end of the day, your team consists of people working with people, not generations against generations. With efficient communication methods and active check-ins with your employees, age variation can become a valuable asset rather than an obstacle in co-operation for your team.