Did you know that there are currently five generations working alongside one another? This makes your team one of the first — and most complex — of its kind in the history of work. Each generation has its own value systems and viewpoints regarding life and work. This begs the question: is it possible to adapt your managing style to get the best from all five groups?

Although generational diversity is incredibly beneficial to businesses, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. You’ll need a robust diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy to underpin your management efforts. When done correctly, you’re far more likely to reach your goal of building a happy, engaged workforce in which every generation experiences job satisfaction and higher levels of trust.

Is it possible to succeed in managing generational differences in the workplace? Our experts reveal how to bridge the divide and build a more collaborative environment.

Meet the five generations in today’s workforce

The five generations in today’s workforce span 83 years, from oldest to youngest. Each generation’s communication style, professional values, and preferred leadership style have been shaped by the culture they grew up in.

generational gap infographic

  • Traditionalists (1928 - 1944)

Aged from 94 to 77 in 2022

Traditionalists (also known as the ‘silent’ generation) are the oldest generation in the workforce today. They were raised during World War II and are often characterised as loyal, long-tenured workers. They value monetary rewards, are motivated by the prospect of rising through the ranks, and often view work as their duty.

  • Baby Boomers (1945 - 1965)

Aged from 76 to 57 in 2022

Baby Boomers are named for the birth rate explosion post-World War II, in which there was a ‘boom’ in birth rates. They are typified by their confidence, independence, and willingness to assert authority. Studies show that Baby Boomers value their work-life balance and would prefer to work remotely on a full-time basis.

  • Generation X (1966 - 1980)

Aged from 56 to 42 in 2022

Generation X are the first generation to be raised with two working parents; because of this, they’re often considered to be self-reliant with a strong work ethic. Despite their excellent face-to-face communication skills, Generation X prefers full-time remote work. Studies show that Gen X benefits from workplace wellbeing initiatives more than any other generation in the workplace.

  • Millennials (1981 - 1996)

Aged from 41 to 26 in 2022

Millennials grew up alongside emerging technology and are considered the first ‘digital generation’. Priorities mark the main difference between Millennials and Gen X. Studies show Gen X values career advancement, whereas Millennials prefer flexibility and autonomy.

  • Generation Z (1997 - 2010)

Aged from 25 to 10 in 2022

Generation Z are digital natives and have never known a world without the internet. Like Millennials, Gen Z want to use their careers to drive world change. As a result, they choose employers based on value alignment, and two-thirds prefer office-based working because it increases their productivity and sense of belonging.

Related: How important is ESG to jobseekers?


Managing generational diversity in the workplace


1. Avoid generational stereotyping

Although it's helpful to be aware of generational differences, you're unlikely to foster a productive work environment by pigeonholing people. Instead, use one-to-one meetings and quarterly reviews to learn more about your employees individually, then use your knowledge to get the best from them.

2. Encourage hybrid work environments

By embracing a blend of office-based and remote work, you can cater to each generation's preferences. Gen Z and Traditionalists can satisfy their need for an office environment while Boomers, Gen X and Millennials get to keep a healthy work-life balance.

Related: Outcome-based work culture: why the UK's hybrid workplace demands it

3. Knowledge sharing across the ages

Each generation has something valuable to share with the others. Knowledge sharing and mentoring can foster an environment of mutual respect across all ages. Not only does the business benefit from well-rounded employees, but each individual feels valued and has the chance to grow.

4. Use company values to unify your team

Professional relationships are better when everyone’s on the same page. Strong company values are key for inspiring and attracting Millennial and Gen Z employees while providing committed older generations with a solid mission to rally behind.

5. Organise team-building exercises

Team-building activities are one of the fastest ways to break down generational barriers. Not only do they allow employees to let off some steam, but they also facilitate bond-building and creative problem-solving.

Related: Motivating your team: 25 ways to increase employee engagement