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Bridging the Gap in a Multi-Generational Workplace

Business Development
  • 35% of the workforce in the U.S. is made up of Millennials, the largest generation represented
  • 70% of Generation X would rather work independently than collaboratively, and they have earned the most college degrees (35% over Millennials at 19%)
  • Generation Z now accounts for 5% of the workforce

Part of managing a business and creating a well-balanced company culture is knowing your employees. This includes making sure they’re communicating well with one another. You can start by exploring the generational divides in our culture that may be represented within your business.Just like ethnic and socioeconomic diversity fosters inclusiveness and collaboration, generational diversity also adds new insights into how your business’s objectives are being accomplished.This is especially true when you consider how each generation thinks. Then you can start learning how to bridge the communication gap within a multi-generational workplace.

Defining the Generations

Typically you hear about the “younger generation” versus the “older generation,” each with its set of stereotypes and caricatures. But this doesn’t really define much of anything besides undue bias, and only reinforces managerial and hiring decisions based on ageism.Despite contrary belief, people in different age brackets can work together—not only with efficiency, but in harmony!In fact, there are actually five major generation groups in the U.S. workforce today:

  • Traditionalists
  • Baby Boomers
  • Generation X
  • Millennials
  • Generation Z

Traditionalists

Research data waffles on exact dates separating each generation, so there is some overlap. However, the general consensus is that those of the Traditionalist generation were born before 1945 and shaped by the World War era.Many Traditionalists have overcome financial and economic hardship, and since, they’ve earned a reputation for being hard workers, dependable and loyal.Stereotypes: Have not adapted to modern technology, stubborn, and resistant to change.Communication Style: Prefer face-to-face and handwritten communication.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers were born between 1946 – 1964. They have also been referred to as the Me Generation because of the youth culture in society at that time, which was focused on what writer and journalist Tom Wolfe called “self-fulfillment” and “self-realization.”This generation was shaped by a post-World War II economy and the Vietnam War, but also by TV and phones. They value success that comes from sacrifice, as well as paying your dues in order to advance in your career.Stereotypes: Productive and ambitious, but also highly competitive and not collaborative.Communication Style: Efficiency is key—written communication, phone calls, and face-to-face.

Generation X

Generation X accounts for people born from 1965 – 1980. They were culturally nicknamed “Latchkey Kids,” due to high divorce rates and the number of families with both parents working in the household.The birth of the early internet was obviously pivotal, and as a result, Generation X has been able to adapt to modern technology better than Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, but it isn’t generally as ingrained as it is for Millennials and Gen Z.Stereotypes: flexible and adaptive, self-reliant, skeptical, resistant to work/company changes that affect personal lives.Communication Style: Email, phone calls, and face-to-face communication.

Millennials

What are generation types?

Millennials (or Generation Y) were born around 1981 – 1996. They currently dominate the workforce at 35%, and have been most impacted by the internet and smartphone technology. This includes the rise of social media platforms, and how Millennials are able to use them as career networking opportunities. As a result, they adapt the quickest to these kinds of innovations compared to the other three generations mentioned so far.Stereotypes: Great multitaskers and achievement-oriented, but aren’t team players. Not as hardworking as Traditionalists or Baby Boomers.Communication Style: Email, texting, Instant Messaging (IM), and phone calls.

Generation Z

People in Generation Z were born between 1997 – 2020. Only 5% of them are in the workforce, but they’re making an impact due to their adept mastery of technology and social media, as well as their focus on diversity and representation—both in the workplace and in mainstream media.Stereotypes: entrepreneurial, creative, lack of experience, always looking for new opportunities, no company loyalty.Communication Style: all digital communication.

Streamlining Communication Between the Generational Gaps

So we’ve established what the generation types are and how they communicate, and even some of their stereotype characteristics. But how do you begin streamlining communication, and collaboration, between them?

Provide Opportunities for Different Communication Styles

While Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, on the whole, may struggle with the more nuanced aspects of today’s technological advances, they can benefit from the dexterity of Millennials and Gen Zs. While those younger generations can gain beneficial tools that come from face-to-face communication, not to mention the creativity that can spark from taking hand-written notes.Providing opportunities for different communication styles—say through department meetings and presentations—can foster an environment where coworkers can share important key values, regardless of age.

Team Building Exercises

Team building exercises can also help develop collaboration and trust between coworkers in a multi-generational workplace. Respect and inclusion can be more easily gained without the pressure of a day’s workload during business hours. Here are some examples of effective team building outings:

  • Happy Hours
  • Parties
  • Lunches
  • Volunteer Work
  • Retreats

Cross-Generation Mentoring

You can bridge skillsets by allowing members with seniority to share their expertise through cross-generation mentoring, but they can also gain insights into being better multitaskers and collaborators. Meanwhile, Younger coworkers can learn traditional methods and the benefits of structured approaches. Each age group can work together more cohesively to come up with more efficient ways to do things.

Respect Generational & Individual Identities, Not Stereotypes

Your business objectives are being met and accomplished by real people, not stats and stereotypes. These generation types are an important guide, but ultimately, this serves for you to continue research into your own company demographic.

Need More Advice on Your Multi-Generational Workplace?

Remember that each generation has their own set of overarching values. This is largely because of the cultural events that shaped them. But at the same time, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to managing a multi-generational workplace, and no company culture looks the same.Here at Digital Resource, we are made up of several departments with specialists from all walk and stages of life. All to make up one DR Family. Contact us today to learn more about how we can be your guide!

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