What's your strategy for getting Baby Boomers, Millennials and Generation Z to work effectively together? If it's something you're struggling with, you're not alone.
If you’ve spent any time on the internet (or in the lunchroom) in the last five years, you’ve probably heard the different generations slating each other off as ‘useless’ and the reason our future is doomed. And we all know someone from a different generation who leaves you shaking your head and audibly groaning when you find out you’re being forced to work with them on a project.
But what if everyone has had it wrong? What if inter-generational teams are not the hot mess, we think they are, but actually the ingredients to a winning recipe. A recipe that we’ve been getting wrong for the last five years? It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it?
Here’s another question for you…what do Baby Boomers have that the younger generations don’t? It’s simple: Life experience, company knowledge, patience and emotional intelligence, all of which are huge assets for a business. The younger generations have an abundance of strengths too. They have the ability to adapt to new technology in the blink of an eye, possess inquisitive minds, relentless drive and the ability to get things done quickly and effectively, tantalizing skill sets for any employer.
On the flip side, Millennials and Gen Z have built a bit of a negative reputation for lacking resilience, emotional intelligence and expecting to race up the career ladder before they’ve earned their stripes and gained the skills needed to carry out a leadership role. They are, however, keenly aware of this reputation. In Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey, 63 percent of respondents believed that their organisations could do more to develop future leaders. This means that there’s a large pool of potential, with people who openly acknowledge that they need mentoring and guidance in order to reach their goals. Now there’s a word that businesses like to hear… ‘Potential!’ All you need to do as an organisation, is nurture and encourage their growth in order to reap the rewards.
New Zealand’s aging population requires that businesses get on board with the fact that staff are working later into life than ever before. According to the PwC Golden Age Index 2018, New Zealand has the second-highest employment rate of 55-64-year-olds in the OECD, and the employment rate of our 65-69-year-olds has been rising since 2003. The key to making the most of a diverse range of staff is to celebrate and utilise their different strengths and foster an environment of collaboration where they can grow and learn from each other. By combining their forces, you can give your organisation an edge over competitors. So how can you tap into this potential?
Here are our top tips for breaking down the generational barriers
Partner the different generations together on projects, so they can get experience working together, and the project can benefit from their mutual strengths.
A great example of this in action is when the Skills Group recently looked into improving the way we induct new staff. The Boomers and Millennials/Gen Z naturally teamed up to bring the project to life. The Boomers used their company knowledge and life experience to suggest what information should be included in induction kits, while the young guns figured out which software and technologies could be used to deliver the training in a fun and interactive way. They then tested their ideas out on each other and collaborated to achieve a great overall result.
Encourage cross-generational friendships through shared celebrations e.g. when a project wraps up successfully or to celebrate birthdays.
In our organisation, we do something called a ‘Birthday Bombing’ where a team covers a fellow team members desk with celebratory decorations. A manager informs the team of the upcoming birthday, and the night before, the team fills that person’s desk with bunting, pom-poms and other special birthday decorations. As trivial as it may seem, it helps people to feel like they belong, are valued, and also breaks down barriers within teams. When people feel valued, they do their best work, are less likely to look for other job opportunities and will go above and beyond to help their team meet a collective goal. Not a shabby result for a bit of tinsel, some pom poms and a hand-drawn birthday card…
Encourage them to pair up when it comes to learning and staff development.
Boomers need help with technology and the younger generation need mentoring and project experience- it’s a match made in heaven, as they’re perfectly equipped to help each other out. At the start of each year, our organisation maps out training goals for each staff member to help them meet their KPI’s and acquire the skills needed for career progression. This is generally made up of formal training or qualifications as well as internal training e.g. lunch and learns, regular group online training sessions or completing micro-projects. Pairing team members up based on different areas of strength will help them to build and develop their skills and provide them with a go-to person they can turn to for advice/assistance in areas they’re uncertain of, resulting in better quality work overall.
So, here’s a challenge for you. Try changing the way you view the different generations within your department. Instead of gritting your teeth and smiling politely, find a way to leverage one generation’s strengths to compensate for another generation’s weaknesses. You might just be pleasantly surprised by the results.