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over 1 year ago by Peter Fitzroy

Come-on, Come-on, Let’s Work Together

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In a matter of seconds you can pull up over a million articles and opinion pieces on the paradox that is Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.

It is estimated that by 2020 there will be 5 generations working side by side with Gen Y representing 50% of the workforce. It’s quite obvious that if you can integrate Gen Y successfully into your existing team of Gen X and Baby Boomers then you will have a competitive advantage. You will have a more diverse and flexible team with talented people of all ages who have a broad insight into your customer base, and a nice balance between experience and innovation.

Although to quote a James Bond movie,

"Age is no guarantee of efficiency: And youth is no guarantee of innovation"

Let’s look at some simple points to take into account when creating multi-generational teams that will ensure a smooth assimilation to the diversity in expectations, motivational factors, personal and professional needs, and influences that define these unique individuals.

  1. Stop comparing and pointing out differences. You cannot expect people who grew up at different points in history to have the same experiences and outlook towards life. This is something that has been around since the birth of mankind and will be around for a long time to come. Let people be and deal with who they are. We all were young once and hopefully we will also grow old in time. We cannot compare the times that pass through stages of our lives as they are different for each generation.

  2. Respect or at least understand each other’s values. You respect your own set of values, and so do people from another generations respect theirs. However we should recognize our own values and standards may not apply to everyone. Understand other people’s perspective and opinion and appreciate there can be more than one way to achieve a goal. This can include teamwork and cooperation, making independent decisions, giving praise and respect, and life-work balance.

  3. Work styles differ; Get to know them. Micromanagement doesn’t go too well with Boomers, while Gen Y craves attention and continuous praise for the work they do. Boomers love the good old pep-talks, while Gen X wants and will ask for continuous feedback. On the other hand Gen Y expects more of a coach than a boss. Adopt a strategic approach to the different people in your team. Baby Boomers are perfect to act as mentors and coaches to share and pass knowledge to Gen X and Gen Y, thus creating a natural succession plan.

  4. Find common grounds. Find mutual values and desires to bridge the generation gap. Early Boomers and Gen Y may view security and stability differently but Gen X and Gen Y both place high value on workplace flexibility and work-life balance. All generations want strong leadership. Try involving employees from the mix of generations on special projects. They will all approach the problem at hand with their unique way but working together will allow them to bond and work towards the same goal which will make the project much more valuable.

  5. Learn from each other. Each generation has its own unique life experiences and this ‘knowledge’ should be shared for the benefit of the whole team. Whilst Boomers know all the ‘tricks in the books’, Gen X is known for their ability to provide un-censored feedback. Gen Y in its turn, has the strength of being technically savvy. Such diversity of generations, cultures and mindsets can play important role in growth and innovation.

Baby Boomers are working into their 70s whilst Generation Y is swarming into every organization world over.

Only through strong leadership and ‘working together’ will your organization stand a chance of surviving and prospering in this challenging and ever competitive environment.