From Baby Boomers to Gen Z: Can they actually work well together?

In today’s evolving workplaces, it’s common to see several generations together in the same company.

It isn’t surprising to walk into an organization and see a 77-year-old who was around when colored television was invented working with a 22-year-old that couldn’t imagine life without it.

Different generations often mean different value systems, approaches to work-life balance and skill sets. It can be a challenge for companies to manage different age groups, but there are helpful ways to work through differences. It starts with role clarity, and that can lead to an overall sense of belonging and a team-building environment.

Role Clarity
From day one of hiring any employee, role clarity should be the priority.

“You need to clearly say what this role will be held responsible for. Sometimes it’s less about how we cater to different generations and more about what is needed to get our desired results,” explained Rory Tyer, HORNE’s director of People Solutions. “Often there are different ways to achieve the same result, and different generations may each have something to contribute as they work together. This can create a good balance of individual work style and shared accountability.”

It’s important to recognize differences between generations, but it’s more important to cater to individuals, not their age group.

For example, some Gen Zers enjoy coming to the office and staying later if they receive an incentive to do that. Others fall within their generational stereotype of working remotely and clocking out by 5 p.m. Within each generation, it’s never one size fits all.

“If a workplace has its culture, expectations and how success is measured very clearly defined, that becomes the standard to which everyone is held, regardless of generation,” Tyer said.

Sense of Belonging
No matter which generation your team members are in, everyone craves an environment where they feel they belong.

“If your employees don’t have a sense of belonging, they won’t take the risk they need to grow,” said HORNE’s Partner for Strategic Growth, Joey Havens. “It’s less about the generation and more about how to make them feel appreciated and respected.”

Companies are always looking for new strategies and ideas but fail to make their employees feel as if they are a part of the organization. Instead, employees believe they are managed as a set of hours in a day – not as people.

Havens explained, “Rather than managing time, leaders are more effective when they intentionally connect to people, trust in the good in people and communicate with clarity on expectations. People want to succeed but they will not care until they know leadership cares about them.

Having a people-first mindset leads to better collaboration and delivering stronger results. A sense of belonging goes beyond a singular generation – it’s applicable to all of us. Everyone, regardless of generation, wants to be part of a community, a team with a strong connection and purpose.

Intergenerational Training
There are differences in the ways each generation views work and overall productivity. Because of this, it’s easy for a Baby Boomer to naturally gravitate to other Baby Boomers because their way of thinking is more aligned.

But this mindset can enforce an unhealthy boundary and build walls that are difficult to tear down.

To combat this, Tyer suggests “creating team-building environments where managers intentionally help employees recognize and appreciate the good things about other generational identities.”

He explained that “it starts with appreciating what everyone brings to the table as individuals, not just as generational representatives. We need one another to get the work done.”

When this occurs, each generation is aware of the other’s strengths, which can lead to opportunities for intergenerational training and mentorship where everyone learns from each other.

It helps to look at generational differences from a bird’s-eye view. It’s easy to get in the weeds and try to appeal to them all, but that can result in forgetting that while there are differences, the similarities of what each generation desires are strong enough to bring them together.

If you’re looking for guidance on managing multiple generations in your office, contact us to see how HORNE can help.



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