In many companies these days, it is not atypical to have an employee base that spans four generations: Baby Boomers (born between 1944 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979), Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994), and Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2015).
Now aged 24, the oldest members of Gen Z are beginning to enter workplaces where there may already be employees who are in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. Teams that include such a wide-ranging age group can have a lot of beneficial impact on your company… but there are also opportunities for tension.
Mixing generations in the workplace, for instance, can mean that a 20-something sits next to and performs the same work as a 50-something, or an older employee is supervised by a person much younger than them, or all parties may be biased by generational stereotypes that aren’t accurate. Though the workplace is a professional space, it’s natural for situations like this to require adjustment, compassion, and thoughtful management.
In addition, some differences across generations in the workplace may include expectations and desires around compensation, benefits, and company culture; values about conflict resolution, teamwork, supervision, and autonomy; communication methods; job-seeking and job-changing behavior; and the relationship between home and work, including overtime, vacation, remote work, and flexible work arrangements.
With so many shifting factors present in this melting pot, consider these tips to help you make the most of an age-diverse workforce.
Making the Most of an Age-Diverse Workforce
1. Avoid generalizations or labels. Resist bringing up generational differences; doing so will reduce the importance of the age gap, and help remove related stigmas. Instead, your employees can place their focus elsewhere, like supporting each other and the company’s goals.
2. Find commonalities. From leaders to employees, focusing more on things in common rather than differences will pave the way for collaboration and trust across generations. Interests such as film genres, gardening, cooking, and travel aren’t bound by age.
3. Consider informal mentoring opportunities. If they’re interested, both younger and older employees have opportunities to be mentors and mentees in unique ways. If technology is a cinch for a Gen Z team member, this is an excellent opportunity to share knowledge, while a Gen X or Baby Boomer may have meaningful insight on career growth.
4. Explore leadership opportunities. When selecting employees to lead projects, choose without regard to age so that all team members have a chance to grow, learn, and lead.
5. Consider workplace values. Not to generalize, but it is important to understand that different generations may have different approaches and motivations to work. What motivates a Gen X may not motivate a Gen Z. Though the onus is on the employee to want to keep their job, the proactive manager will acknowledge and seek to navigate the difference in work values from a generation that grew up with the idea of “working to live” versus the generation that grew up with “living to work.”
With a proactive leadership approach, conscientiously embracing an age-diverse workplace can be productive rather than disruptive to workplaces. Managers who create a respectful and open-minded environment will likely experience a more vibrant workplace and can expect to see a stronger bottom line.
Chris Thomas, SHRM-SCP is the Principal Consultant with The CTCS Group in Canton, GA. The CTCS Group is focused on providing HR Leadership, Behavioral Assessments, and Consulting to help small businesses grow and thrive. You can subscribe to this blog or request a free consultation at www.thectcsgroup.com.
Disclaimer: The information and recommendations provided in this document should not be considered legal advice and should not substitute for legal advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. Recommendations are provided based on good faith assessment and interpretation of the available legal and regulatory resources.