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How does embracing the generation gap create better teams?

May 24, 2024

Our working lives can span half a century so inevitably there can be employees within a company who range in age – from teenagers at the start of their careers to those in their 60s and 70s who have seen and done it all.

It’s a vast age difference which brings with it vast differences in outlook, knowledge, experience and skills. However, each generation has its own qualities and attributes which together can make a complete and powerful package.

These generations are commonly broken down into four broad categories:

  • Baby boomers who were born before or in 1964
  • Generation X who were born between 1965 and 1980
  • Millennials who were born between 1981 and 2000
  • And Generation Z who were born during or after 2001

Each generation has its own strengths in terms of knowledge and skill set but it’s dangerous to be prescriptive or create false stereotypes. Every employee will have their own personal qualities and weaknesses regardless of age, and their education and experience will see them bringing unique gifts to the party.

Having a range of ages and experiences can only benefit a business. Generation Z, for example, will be likely to have a better understanding of and familiarity with social media and the changing face of communications while baby boomers and Generation X will have had a lifetime of developing their skills and knowledge as well as years of experience in adapting to changes in technology and office environments.

Baby boomers have an irreplaceable wealth of experience and knowledge and can be great mentors to younger, less senior employees.

Generation X employees, according to studies, are more persuasive and people orientated than their younger counterparts. They are also considered to have a strong work ethic and are independent, well educated and good at adapting to new technology.

Millennials, meanwhile, are considered to be the most ‘overeducated’ generation and are ambitious. Unlike their older colleagues, they may be looking for a better work-life balance and may be looking for a more flexible working life.

Generation Z are internet savvy and comfortable with technology as well as often being environmentally conscious and looking to have a meaningful impact on the world. They are well educated and looking to develop their skills on the job.

Companies can maximise this intergenerational mix by understanding each person’s individual strengths. They can also counter the temptation to leave – either for retirement or a new job – by offering incentives. Baby boomers might be persuaded to stay at work if they can get more flexibility to help older or younger members of their family or reduce their working hours.

Generation X employees value employment which gives them a better work life balance, flexible working and childcare benefits while millennials could be attracted by the opportunity to travel or more flexible working.

Many Generation Z staff began their working life during the Covid pandemic so their first initiation into working life was from home. As such, they can be more accustomed to and favour remote working as well as flexible hours and a more relaxed working environment.

Introducing a HR strategy to recognise these different strengths and motivations, and to maximise them for both the employees and the company’s mutual benefit, can deliver significant results for businesses.

A stable workforce with complementary parts can develop to be stronger and more flexible. The secret to success is to embrace and celebrate the differences so everyone wins.

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