Having a workforce composed of employees ranging in age from 18 to 77 is no longer unusual. With people living longer and working longer, a four-generation workplace is swiftly becoming the norm. A glance around your office (or during the weekly Zoom or Teams catch-up) probably reveals a diverse blend of ages, from seasoned veterans to eager interns or fresh graduates.A study by Robert Half reports that 36% of baby boomer workers (those 59 to 77 years old) and 23% of Gen Xers (43 to 58) now intend to postpone their retirement plans. With members of Generation Alpha still below working age, Gen Z (18 to 26) is the youngest corps, and they are predicted to constitute 30% of the workforce by 2030. These digital natives will be working shoulder-to-shoulder with millennials (27 to 42), Gen Xers and baby boomers. In light of this diverse age spread, intergenerational collaboration within companies has become essential.
The same Robert Half research confirms that workers from diverse generations have a number of similar perspectives as well as preferences and outlooks that differ. For example: Despite the potential impact of automation and AI on their jobs, 73% of baby boomers say they’re not at all concerned. In contrast, only 22% of Gen Z professionals say they’re unconcerned about its impact on their jobs. And by a wide margin, millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers say a competitive salary with regular merit increases has the biggest influence on their job satisfaction, whereas Gen Zers say flexibility in when and where they work and a positive company culture do more to motivate them.Businesses that promote intergenerational collaboration find an advantage in the similarities and differences among these age groups within the workplace. Let’s explore how this works.Better problem-solving. Having a mix of viewpoints is good for problem-solving. When each team member chips in with their unique experiences and ideas, the range of possible solutions naturally expands. Plus, as we get to know our colleagues better, we’re more willing to team up and solve work challenges, pushing aside age-based labels that don’t help anyone.More effective communication. Members of one generation may in general favor talking in person or on the phone, while others prefer sending a text message or responding through a chat feature. Understanding why colleagues have these preferences and finding common ground is a step toward better collaboration. For example, once they’re aware of differences, colleagues may start limiting emails to matters that require speed and efficiency but decide to meet face-to-face — either in person or via video — when they sense the situation could benefit from direct connection and the relationship-building it brings.A dynamic exchange of skills and ideas. Managers who nurtureintergenerational collaboration make it more likely that workers will appreciate each other’s skills and perspectives. For instance, when a tech-savvy Gen Zer teams up with a seasoned boomer known for strategic insight, they each bring their unique strengths to the table. Both parties come away from the experience wiser and more empathetic, promoting a work environment where respect and productivity go hand in hand.
So how do you as a company leader foster intergenerational collaboration in your organization? Primarily, motivating employees to work together to solve challenges the team faces involves encouraging them to get to know colleagues on a personal level. Here are some ideas.
1. Run reverse mentoring programsReverse mentoring flips the traditional mentorship model, with a less-experienced (often younger) colleague passing on knowledge and insights to a senior coworker. To launch this kind of program, establish clear metrics to track its impact on the company and the individuals involved. For example, you could measure its success by assessing progress with new skills or approaches learned through the program.
2. Reinforce common groundThe Robert Half study found that all age groups value work-life balance and well-being, which is aided when managers allow remote and hybrid work arrangements. So it’s not only the younger crowd who enjoys the flexibility of firing up their laptops from their cozy homes. This shared preference provides an opportunity to design work schedules that are more flexible and cater to everyone’s needs.
3. Create opportunities for employees to connectIn another survey by Robert Half, many professionals said they are now more motivated to do their jobs. And 40% of them, irrespective of age, attribute their heightened motivation to positive relationships with their colleagues. Consider setting up social events, either in-person or virtually, separate from work-related gatherings to give coworkers an opportunity to deepen their connections. Paying travel expenses for those who are primarily remote to visit the office now and then can boost team spirit and make everyone feel like they’re part of the big picture.
When you have a multigenerational workplace, getting to know your people and their needs better will allow you to help them get to know each other better, thereby boosting collaboration. By building bridges between generations, your organization doesn’t just become more upbeat and productive — it becomes a place where people grow together, both as individuals and as a team.
Robert Half Inc.
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