6 Steps to Getting Generations to Work Together

Make the effort to positively impact and influence your workers, no matter the generation, to see the greatness of your company.

It’s possible to build “generational brilliance” among your workforce, but you need to take into consideration their age, interest, personal hopes and professional goals. Here’s how:

1. Build consistent communication opportunities

This effort should be present in any organization but it is even more vital in a multi-generation workplace. The focus on “consistent” includes not only regularly scheduled meetings but it extends to encouraging workers to seek each other out to discuss issues in person, rather than in an e-mail or text. Whether face-to-face or by phone, encourage and influence more consistent communication.

2. Increase learning opportunities for all employees

Learning opportunities about technology abound, but there is still a great need for workers of all generations to learn more about the “softer skills” of working. Teamwork, listening, resolving conflicts, customer satisfaction etc. all are skills that must be taught all over again.

Once I was asked to provide some basics of supervising to the younger leaders, most of whom were Millennials. After the first round of classes (of six rounds over the next two years, I might add) it was clear that the older, more seasoned leaders needed the same training. (In fact, 60% of Baby Boomer and Generation X leaders had never received any “basics of supervision.”) So, don’t ever assume that older employees have had all the learning they need; most of them haven’t received much in the way of professional development.

Formal workshops are a good way to increase “learning opportunities,” but the greater opportunities will come via formal and informal opportunities to mentor. Here’s the cool part: have your Millennials mentor the older workers on technology and the Baby Boomer/Generation X workers mentor on actual work process and company procedure. It’s a sure winner, believe me!

3. Give increased recognition (not money)

Most studies conducted on Millennial needs in the workplace scream for more recognition. In fact, one study found that our Millennials like recognition on average of once a month. Here’s another interesting point to consider: Even God gave Adam a “thumbs up” for his work in the garden. That is until Eve threw a red apple against his head. (No, that’s a beer commercial, sorry!)

Recognition, especially praise soon after a completed task or project phase, continues to be just what the psychologist ordered to keep workers enthusiastic about their work, team and project. Remember, recognition, even if it’s about a problem, can be turned into very satisfying emotions for workers, many of whom are interested in growing their career and importance to their company.

4. Influence leaders to be more "coach-like"

As a Baby Boomer myself, I’ve never enjoyed working for anyone who led, acted, and spoke like he was a “gift from heaven” and that I should recognize that by bowing to his presence each time I saw him. Personally, I always responded to sport coaches and business leaders who preferred working “with” people rather than “over” people. Many Millennials feel the same but here’s my hunch: I think most Baby Boomers and Generation Xers also prefer their leaders to be more “coach-like” in their leadership. No biggie here as I see it!

5. Increase the personalizing of being a professional

Many Millennial workers seek to enjoy their “day job,” seeing it as a reflection of who they are and what they are about. So it’s important that owners and leaders establish their corporate values. The values might include such topics as trustworthiness, honesty, listening, freedom to express oneself, customer importance, and forgiveness. Such values need to be discussed, posted, and made part of meetings and performance appraisals. Most important, however, is that such values must be believed and reinforced…from the owner down through their leaders and still further supported all through the rank and file. No excuses and no exceptions!

Also, the company needs to increase “hanging out” time with workers. Pizza for lunch, wings and root beer after work, a dinner here, a ball game there, family day at the zoo for all the workers etc. Such efforts will reinforce the importance of being a team, being part of a bigger family, and realizing that the company who spends time together can keep all their workers happier and around longer!

6. Confront the likes/dislikes openly and honestly

Look, not every Millennial agrees with, much less reflects, the statistical gurus who study generational differences. So, how about a novel idea…why not conduct your own generational study?

Here’s how: First, interview your different generations about the same topics, asking for their input and feelings. Second, bring the different generations together and share the results you collected. Be ready for some fun and funny discussions. It will be healthy for your people to discuss such similarities and differences. Don’t be surprised if you find a mix of reaction that is almost opposite from what you would have first predicted.

Third and finally, engage your workers to commit to a list of values and preferences that they would all like to see in your organization. You may be surprised the list reflects values that should be included anyway, but let your people believe that they are the ones providing the company culture tools to keep a better motivated workforce at play. This third effort might just be one of the better efforts you can make with the multi-generational workforce.

There is no magic in these six recommendations, but why not make the effort to positively impact and influence your workers, no matter the generation, to see the greatness of the company that they currently call their “home”? Can we do any less?

Here’s to bringing out the “generational brilliance” in your company!

*Article was originally published in 2017 and republished in 2020.