Generations Working Together: The Pros and Cons

With many workers continuing their careers past the age at which they are eligible for retirement, many different generations are beginning to intermingle in the workplace. As the older generations stay on the job longer they increasingly come into contact with younger generation workers who are just setting out on the journeys of their careers. This, for many different reasons, is both a gift and a struggle. One of the benefits is the wide range of skills that are brought to the table by different generations. Another benefit is the possibility for mentorship between different age groups in the workplace. Some struggles that this age diversity brings are difficulty with communication and work styles.

Generational Skills

Although workers in the same industry often share similar skills there are some key differences between generations in terms of useful skills. For example, generally, those workers who were born after 1980 and who therefore are considered to be from the millennial generation are known for being more accepting of diversity than their older coworkers. Not only are they more accepting, but they often have a more global perspective. Some people believe this comes from having access to the internet since birth. The generation born after 1965, or the Gen Xer generation, is skilled in the technical aspects needed for a job and are often more concerned with work/life balance than other generations. Baby boomers, or those born after 1946, are one of the most hardworking generations. Many members of this generation will continue working long past the average age of retirement, and some never stop working at all.

Mentorship

The skills addressed above are ones that can be taught. This means that with proper mentorship between generations in the workplace the result could be workers who possess all of the skills regardless of what generation they come from. Many people believe that mentorship can only be formatted as the older worker mentoring and the younger worker being the mentee. This is, however, not the case. Through a process referred to as reverse mentoring, it is possible for those of a younger generation to mentor their elders. This give and take relationship between age groups in the workplace can lead to a significant increase in the talents and skills shared by all workers.

Communication

With different age groups comes different styles of communication. Many younger employees will prefer online forms of communication such as instant messenger or video chat, whereas older employees might prefer face to face. These differences, while not inherently bad, can cause a disconnect in communication between the workforce. In order to rectify this dilemma, it is important to be aware of the differences in communication styles between age groups and work to educate employees on these differences.

Work Style

The challenges that are present when generations mix at work do not end with communication. Another common difficulty faced by employers working with members of different generations is work style. Work style refers the way in which one prefers to complete a task. GenXers or those born after 1965 often prefer to work long hours if needed, whereas millennials don’t put as much significance with hours work as opposed to results generated. A useful way for employers to approach this is to allow workers to choose their own work style but to have certain standardizations and regulations in place to ensure that the work gets done one way or another.

Bottom Line

Generations are intermingling in the modern workplace. This leads to a useful exchange of skills through mentorship but it also brings difficulties with communication and work styles. Once these difficulties are addressed through education the benefit of having employees of different age groups working together far outway the challenges. Let us know if you have any insights into generational differences in the workplace, and we hope this article has been helpful!

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