Strategic Alliances offers online courses, certificates, free virtual roundtables, and in-person Leadership Academies, which are intensive, learning experiences tailored to meet the competency needs of companies, municipalities, and non-profits.
Where are we seeing this generational mix? At home? Maybe. At the mall? Definitely. But today we are also seeing this generational mix in the workplace. In fact, it is an historic blending of five generations from the Silent Generation to Gen Z who are expected to work together seamlessly. Yet, if there is no communication and training plan to help these age groups come together to be productive, the result can be disruptive and counterproductive. We have so much to learn from each other.
Take this memorable scene…
Ben: I'm Ben Whittaker. I've got an appointment with Miss Ostin.
Becky: I thought she was meeting with her new intern.
Ben: That's me.
Becky: How old are you?
Ben: 70, you?
Becky: I'm 24. I know I look older. It's the job. It ages you, which won't be great in your
From The Intern (2015), produced by RatPac-Dune Entertainment and Waverly
Films; distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.
In this hit movie, Ben is played by Robert De Niro and the movie also stars Anne
Hathaway as Jules. The plot is simple: the hugely successful online company founded
by Jules is being bought and, at the same time, she is faced with business and personal
hurdles that test her resolve. Ben plays a pivotal role in her life—let’s leave it at that. A
box office smash, The Intern struck a note with audiences partly because it presented a
positive picture of an intergenerational workplace.
Of late, much has been made of the quip “OK Boomer” that’s launched a merchandising
bonanza fueled by social media. It speaks to a backlash from younger generations against the snarky attacks from boomers about Millennials as “entitled, job-hopping slackers.” Conversely, Millennials characterize Boomers as “out of touch, not tech-savvy, rigid.” So, before we continue on the road of name-calling, and further boxing people into stereotypes, can we pause and think about the benefits of having so many generations working together?
An older employer can bring wisdom and experience with them to the workplace, and can serve as a moderating voice in times of crisis, especially if they've lived through crises. Younger employees typically bring enthusiasm to learn, as well as extensive digital experience.
However, the flip may also be true. Today, young people may have held two or three full-time jobs before the age of 20. So, they may have more experience than you think. An older employee may be entering the third act of their career which has rejuvenated them and caused them to have a fresh perspective on work along with an excitement to learn.
Move beyond labels and expect your employees as a team will bring incredible ideas and skills to your workforce. Your positive outlook as their leader, coupled with setting a high-bar for accuracy and achievement, will resonate across age groups and permeate your workplace.
In our work with clients in our Leadership Academies, and based on my
observations, here are three tips to manage and maximize your multigenerational
Tip #1: Keep An Open Manager Mindset
Don’t look at people through a generational lens, but with an eye to the individual. Get
to know your employees and don’t let your beliefs about age get in the way of your
thinking. Once you open the door to really getting to know the strengths and skill-sets of your employees, you will be amazed by their potential.
Tip #2: Form Teams With Complementary Characteristics
Look at your business goals with your teams. Ask for their input and have them suggest where they might add the most value. Most people seek fulfillment and purpose from their work. They want to be respected. And, they want to be heard. Will you be able to implement all ideas and suggestions from your teams? No, probably not. However, if you acknowledge their thoughts and explain why their suggestions might or might not work then you are engaging them in higher-order thinking about your business. When you combine listening and respect with the acknowledged hard and soft skills of your team(s), you will be treating your employees as partners in your business and I guarantee you will have a more invested workforce.
Tip #3: Curiosity is Key
A curious mindset must start at the top. I believe if you are curious you stay young. If you can inculcate that mindset into your employees, there will be no age demarcations. A stereotype of Millennials is their thirst for learning and if you don't provide professional development, they will leave you. The truth is a healthy, maximally productive team values learning and professional development no matter their age. As a manager, you can demonstrate your enthusiasm for learning through reading, listening to podcasts and roundtables, or taking classes. By modeling a curious mindset, you will be developing a young workforce; regardless of age.
There is a quote from Roger von Oech that captures the essence of intergenerational workplaces: “Most brilliance arises from ordinary people working together in extraordinary ways.” At Strategic Alliances, our team can tailor a program for you, including how to manage and maximize generational workforces, and help you work magic for your employees, customers, clients, and your bottom line. We will help you shine.
If you want to learn how to instill curiosity into the workplace, look for my next blog post!