There has been a lot of talk surrounding today’s multi-generational workforce. Many view the different age groups like toothpaste and OJ; they just don’t go together.
But what if they did?
Often by changing our perspective, we can see a connection that we didn’t see before. Much like if you change your approach and drink the OJ before you brush your teeth, the two flavors don’t have the same adverse reaction.
So explore with me if you will, an environment where Baby Boomers and Millennials complement each other; where their strengths offset their weaknesses, and they come together to form a company’s dream team.
To do this, we must first gain a better understanding of their similarities, strengths, needs, and wants.
What do they have in common?
- Desire for work/life balance
- The drive to see and be a part of the world becoming a better place – a need for purpose
What are their strengths?
- Millennials = Potential
- Intuitively understand technology
- Unjaded perspective and an openness to exploring new ideas
- Baby Boomers = Experience
- Strong communication skills
- Decades of experience and the knowledge that comes with it
Where do their needs and wants overlap?
- Millennials value knowledge and want mentors. They don’t want to waste time and are constantly looking for ways to speed up their learning curve.
- Baby Boomers want to give back. They have a sense of responsibility, a need, to pass along all of the knowledge they’ve gained throughout their years.
Now that we have a better appreciation for how Baby Boomers and Millennials complement each other let’s take a look at how to structure a team made up of the two groups.
Emphasize the significance of communication.
Communication is key. It’s better to have your team over-communicating than experiencing a lack of communication. It’s vital the group understands the importance of sharing their achievements and excitement as well as their frustration and confusion with each other.
- Baby Boomers should set the example for Millennials and teach them how to communicate and work through the different situations that arise when working in a team.
- Millennials should see the communication process as an opportunity for personal growth and development.
Define projects by purpose.
By doing this, you can appeal to the Baby Boomers and Millennials similar desire for purpose. It will also help the group to be on the same page for what they are trying to accomplish with the project.
The team structure is horizontal.
For them to act as a team, they need to be a team. Meaning no member is more valuable than the other. Each has a strength and weakness, and they need to learn to work together.
Clarify your expectation for two-way teaching and learning.
- Encourage Baby Boomers to mentor Millennials by helping them identify their strengths and how to improve their weaknesses. Make sure they understand the value of sharing their experiences from past projects.
- Empower Millennials by making them responsible for introducing software and online tools that might help aid in the success of the project.
It took many years for me to realize some of the barriers I faced at the beginning of my career had to do with generational differences. Since that realization, I have practiced how to break down those barriers in my company.
I share this with you in hopes that it might help you or someone you know gain a new perspective on how to approach the challenges facing today’s multi-generational workplace.
Until next time!