Helping managers bridge the workplace generation gap

by Rossa Brown

People of different ages have different outlooks on various aspects of life – and that includes business. But for a happy, productive workplace environment, it’s important to bridge the generation gap. Here’s how.

Baby Boomers, Millennials and more

The main friction in workplaces is often seen as being between Millennials (people born between 1980 and 1995) and Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1965). But Generation Xers (born between 1966 and 1976) are probably there in the middle somewhere.

‘These generations have different ideas about and expectations of the workplace’

These generations have different ideas about and expectations of the workplace, from preferred methods of communication to feelings about success. This can lead to clashes – but it can be thought-provoking and creative too.

CEO of LaSalle Network Tom Gimbel says that conflicts between the generations are borne out of “negative assumptions.” A belief that Millennials are lazy, over-sensitive and unprofessional – and that Baby Boomers are unapproachable and unwilling to change with the times.

So, for a harmonious, productive and overall better workplace, it’s vital to make efforts to bridge the gap.

A question of outlook

Despite their differences, Baby Boomers and Millennials have lots in common. For one thing: they all want to achieve success. What’s different between the groups is attitudes towards reaching success, and what success means.

Baby Boomers connect the notion of success largely with money, while 50% of Millennials say they’d take a pay cut for a job more aligned with their values. While both groups want to contribute to their organizations, Millennials like to do so occasionally at home. Baby boomers, on the other hand, prefer to put in the hours in the office to get projects done.

‘50% of Millennials say they’d take a pay cut for a job more aligned with their values’

Flexibility around things like remote working can help bridge the gap. As can the business software you choose to enable and empower people when working remotely. Using HD video conference calling via Workplace Chat can help people contribute with ease and keep in touch wherever they do their work.

Using Workplace to collaborate and get work done

But the impact of Workplace at Virgin Atlantic has evolved, going way beyond simple communication. “It shortcuts the ability of people to ask questions and send information,” says Don. For example? “I have a weekly IT stand up. Someone films it on their iPad and puts it on Workplace a few minutes later.”

Introduce co-mentoring

It might sound contrived but implementing co-mentoring between Millennials and Baby Boomers in the workplace can prove very beneficial for relationships.

The mentorship should be bi-directional, allowing different colleagues of all seniority levels to learn from each other.

‘Mentorship should allow different colleagues of all seniority levels to learn’

This leads to closer relationships within the company, better communication and collaboration, and a much stronger office culture.

Foster communication on different platforms

Keeping communication lines open and friendly is essential for a positive office environment. But different generations have different communication styles. Baby Boomers prefer the directness and openness of face-to-face chats. Millennials want to experience the same levels of digital engagement they enjoy in their personal lives to extend to the workplace.

‘Try introducing platforms which allow preferences to meld’

Giving your employees a choice of communication options – a mix of online collaboration tools, video conferencing and face-to-face meetings can help to bridge the gap.

Try introducing platforms which allow preferences to meld. Tools like Workplace groups can help foster closer links between people – and the familiar and intuitive interface makes it easy for everyone to use. Using Workplace is helping many companies like Hootsuite and Golin to fine-tune open office communication.

Offer shared incentives

Baby Boomers, Millennials or Gen X-ers – everyone likes to feel motivated and rewarded for hard work. Offering incentives that people can share can help bring them together.

For example, when a team is working hard to finish a project, ordering in lunch lets them swap between formal, professional work and informal team bonding. It’s a way to organically build better workplace relationships – no matter what people’s ages.

Tools that change everything. See how new using Workplace brings teams closer together or try Workplace Premium free for 90 days.

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