How To Unite & Strengthen Your Multi-Generational Workforce

Written by: Amor Traceski  

Successfully managing a multi-generational workforce is no easy task, but it can be done. Yes, the aspirations, values and workstyles of each generation differs, creating misunderstandings and conflict in communication. However, according to Shannon Gausepohl of Business News Daily, “Understanding what people value and what motivates them makes it much easier to communicate job expectations, offer the right type of support and even make adjustments that will better suit a team’s performance.”

These are the generations that are represented in the workplace now:

GENERATION NAME/S YEARS / PERIOD AGE RANGES as of 2021
Baby Boomers Born 1946 – 1964 57 –75 years old
Generation X aka GenX Born 1965 – 1980 41 –56 years old
Generation Y aka GenY aka Millennials Born 1981 – 1996 25 –40 years old
Generation Z aka iGenaka Zoomers Born 1997 – 2012 09 –24 yearsold

It is critical for you to first understand what each generation in your workplace values and how these play into their communication and work styles. Here’s an overview.

GENERATION  NAME/SDescriptor WHAT THEY VALUE REASON / INFLUENCE
Baby Boomers “Workaholics”who tend to  put work before personal lives.  Seemingly self-interested. The  “Me Generation.”• Ambition 
• Monetary Security 
• Self-Sufficiency
This is based on their past experience with Vietnam, Woodstock, Cold War, the  Civil Rights Movement, Kennedy’s  Assassination, Watergate, record  inflation and the dot.com bust, which  wiped out many of their retirement  savings, forcing them to work into their  retirement years to recoup their financial losses.
Generation X “LatchKey Kids” who are  suspicious of authority figures.  They dislike being  micromanaged.• Strong Work-Life Balance 
• Ability to Maintain their  Independence 
• Straightforward Communication
Many of these were children of divorced  parents. During their time, they were  also exposed to highly publicized political  scandals (Watergate, Iranian Hostage  Crisis, end of the Vietnam War), significant world events (Fall of the Berlin  Wall, End of Cold War, AIDS, Live Aid, Challenger Disaster) and the influence of  MTV.
Generation Y aka GenY aka MillennialsFirst generation to grow up  with the internet since birth.  First global-centric generation.• Meaningful Life Experiences
• The Company’s Commitment to  the Mission Statement over Just  Turning a Profit 
• Inclusivity, Diversity and Purpose  more than Monetary  
Compensation
First generation to grow up with the internet since birth. They naturally  gravitate toward digital forms of  communication over phone calls or in person meetings. Influences were 9/11,  Columbine High School Shooting,  Internet Explosion, PlayStation, Google,  Social Media, Video Games, Y2K, Invasion  of Iraq, Reality TV, and Google Earth.
Generation Z aka iGen aka Zoomers“Selfie,” “App” or “Trans” Generation. Raised in the era  of smartphones.Diverse and Entrepreneurial.• Fair Compensation 
• Direct & constructive  performance feedback 
• Hands-on Training Managers Who Value their Opinion.
• The Freedom to Work  Independently; Flexible Schedule
• Companies That Demonstrate  Their Commitment to a Broad  Set of Societal Challenges, e.g.  Sustainability, Climate Change,  and Hunger.
Raised with businesses like AirBnB, Uber,  etc. which allows them to see how easy  and simple it is to use your own time and  resources to make money. Exposed to  more liberal ways of thinking and living.
Brought up during the Great Recession,  the Economic Downturn, Sandy Hook,  ISIS, Marriage Equality, the First Black  President, Rise of Populism, Global  Warming, Global Focus, Energy Crisis,  Wiki-Leaks and increase in the use of  Mobile Devices.

Have you heard older generations describe the younger generations as “lazy,” “entitled,” or “tech-obsessed?” Have you heard younger generations describe the older generations as “stubborn,” “set in their ways” and “difficult to train?” Well, these are  stereotypes that you need to consciously recognize and put a stop to in your organization. Generational judgments cause  dysfunction that leads to conflict and instability.  

You can use the above overview to guide you and your managers on ways to communicate with your employees and encourage them to adapt and learn from each other. The key to uniting and strengthening your multigenerational workforce is in promoting  Respectful Communication. Here’s an exercise you can use:

  1. Meet with your employees/workers and have each generation sit together.  
  2. Give them 20 minutes to discuss amongst themselves the items listed below. 
  3. Write the answers on flipchart paper.  
    • What their generation values in the work and company
    • What their preferred communication style is and why 
    • How they see their generation supporting their co-workers
    • What value they believe they bring to the entire organization
  4.  When time is up, instruct each generational group to present their answers.
  5. Allow for a question-and-answer session afterwards.

The objective of this Respectful Communication Exercise is to further understanding and appreciation of everyone’s differences  AND what each brings to the table. Older, more experienced workers can serve as career mentors and guide their younger team members while Millennials and Zoomers can leverage their energy and enthusiasm to keep the Baby Boomers and Millennials engaged and prevent them from falling victim to burnout. The younger generations can also inspire the older generations with new innovative solutions and ways of working, especially with technology. No judgment, stereotyping, or assumptions.  

When you implement the above, demonstrate flexibility and use a healthy mix of verbal, written, and digital communication channels to address your employees, you create space for knowledge sharing and recognition of the value that each generation brings to the company.  

Without a doubt, it will take time for everyone to process and implement this new and improved workstyle. Nevertheless, keep a sharp focus on moving forward as you progress together. In time, you will be able to look back with pride in seeing the strong and united multigenerational workforce you created. Not only will your business thrive from the wealth of knowledge that comes together, but you will have also created a strong foundation for future multi-generations to build upon!  

About the author:

Amor Traceski

Amor Traceski is a Human Resources Consultant with over 20 years of experience in human resources management in various fields of industry.  She is also a motivational speaker, life coach and author of Been There, Done That: Practical Tips & Wisdom from Cancer Survivors for Cancer Patients.  

Learn more about Amor online at https://www.amortraceski.com/

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