We’ve all laughed at the memes at the expense of another generation, or perhaps have thought a meme totally nailed it about our own.
But despite how memes and the media say we are all at odds with one another, it really just comes down to the historical trends and events that shaped who we are and how we view the world. As we know, the world never stays stagnant, so each generation has their own defining moments.
Boomers were defined by events like the Civil Rights Movement, the assassination of JFK, the moon landing, and the Vietnam War.
Gen X saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Challenger disaster and navigated having two working parents.
Millennials experienced a tech revolution, dealt with the first major mass school shooting at Columbine, witnessed 9/11 at a formative age, and started off their adult years in the middle of a huge recession.
Gen Z saw an increase in mass shootings, dire warnings by climate scientists, a continuing fast-paced tech revolution, and a global pandemic during their formative years.
Just like diversity in ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation can bring different perspectives and an opportunity to learn, so can diversity in age. Each generation has its own perspective and can bring different ideas to bring to your workplace. It means we can all learn from one another.
There will no doubt be some tension at work. We are all human and it is bound to happen at some point. As a leader in your company, you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve to keep any normal lines of tension from boiling over. Company leadership and managers should:
- Identify any tension points: ask yourself, is it a generational thing or a personality thing?
- Educate yourself on how each generation has defined the workplace: Boomers are driven by company loyalty, Gen X fought for a better work-life balance, Millennials ushered in more technology and seek personal fulfillment over a big paycheck, and Gen Z, who is just entering the workforce, seems to be heading along the same lines as Millennials on culture, however, enjoy independent work over collaboration.
- Take action to resolve fault lines: this includes fostering open and honest communication, setting up mentorships within the company, creating a dedicated place to share new ideas to foster creativity, creating a safe place to address concerns, and holding team building events, to name a few ideas.
- Hire for culture and not just hard skills: we’ll get into that more below.
The Benefits of Intergenerational Dynamics on Workplace Culture
Diversity of age among employees and workplace culture go hand-in-hand. In fact, it is more of a feedback loop.
When your employees have similar core values and personalities (i.e. culture), the division between generations that creates tension recedes into the background and allows your employees to work better together, no matter the generation they belong to.
When you have a diverse workplace, your workplace culture and organization benefit from different perspectives, ideas and talents that the different age groups bring. You’ll see increased innovation and creativity, faster problem-solving, better decision-making, higher employee engagement, reduced employee turnover, a better company reputation that attracts new top talent, and yes, even increased profits.
In other words, when you hire diversely and for culture, all your employees can do their best work and respect one another, no matter the generation they belong to, creating a positive workplace environment!