There are the baby boomers, Generation X, Y and Z. It is increasingly common now that the 4 generations work side by side within the same company. In a context of digital transformation and changes in practice, the company must build bridges between generations to ensure the proper functioning and sustainability of teams.
Experts say our approach to work is generational. According to our age, we are not motivated by the same things, which would widen the gaps between individuals.
- Baby boomers: people born between 1946 and 1964
- Generation X: people born between 1965 and 1980
- Generation Y (also called millennials): people born between 1981 and 1996
- Generation Z: people born between 1997 and 2012
1- Generations and career stages are two different things
To move away from clichés and stereotypes, the notion of generation and the natural concerns at each career stage must be differentiated.
- A person at the start of their career will be more questioning to find direction and meaning. She will want visibility on her possible next steps, to feel in motion because she often has little attachment at this stage.
- A person closer to retirement will have more of a challenge to build on their experience (mentoring, knowledge sharing, influence strategy) towards career fulfillment and recognition. She will want to prepare for a fulfilling retirement.
▶️ List the needs and concerns of each of the generations in your company, for each fifteen years (for example 20-35 years old / 35-50 years old / 50 years old and over). What are the generations whose career needs you cover less? Are your needs covered?
2- Acknowledge change
In an era where new technologies are ubiquitous, and where the world of work is evolving towards more flexibility and more services, certain trends are becoming increasingly clear and they are embodied more strongly by new generations.
This evolution of the world of work is linked to:
- its time: advances in industry, technological innovations promote cross-functionality and social cohesion.
- its environment: demography, climate change, shortages, geopolitics, wars...
- and in strong reaction also to the previous generation - that of our parents - whatever our age.
▶️ By soliciting a small multigenerational group, facilitate a discussion on these developments. Are there others that people see in your business? What company actions are aligned/unaligned with these developments?
3- Find your multi-generational team opportunities
Beyond Generations X, Y or Z, beyond any categorization, the changing world of work and traditions, there are projects and needs specific to each individual. Each person, at any age, prepares for the future according to individual desires, aspirations and fears.
Very often alone in this evolution, the person finds a powerful lever with the collective, by surrounding himself with a diverse and multigenerational team. The young person needs, among other things, experienced mentors who know the company and its history to think about a career plan. The senior leader needs the new perspective of young people to mobilize his teams.
Each team in the company, and each function, is also an opportunity to mix generations. Each training course, each event, each activity can also be designed to embody this diversity.
▶️ Identify the best example in your opinion of an effective multigenerational team in the company. How does it work?
4- Building trust through reciprocity
Senior employees may find it difficult to seek support from younger people. For fear that their competence will be questioned, a majority have evolved in a hierarchical system where the 'boss' must not lose credibility. Sharing a project with others and exposing yourself to their gaze is therefore more difficult. Fear or modesty hinders the creation of trust and the reciprocity of the bond expected by new generations.
It is therefore essential to allow older generations not only to be mentors and share their experience in a simple and engaging way, but also (and above all) to allow them to carry out a project that is close to their hearts.
Establishing a project allows the creation of a space in which they can be authentic, sometimes vulnerable. They will seek the support of other generations to benefit from new energy and feedback. Young employees will benefit from their knowledge and continue to train.
This is difficult in cultures where respect for older people is particularly strong and is reflected in language and customs. It is then a question of maintaining, or even reinforcing, this respect towards more experienced people, but also of encouraging them not to protect themselves against the younger generations. This facilitates mutual respect.
▶️ Take a moment with someone at the start or end of their career to discuss this theme. Imagine together the implementation of 'reverse mentoring'. What did you learn?
5- Educate leaders
The "clash of generations" can be felt at the corporate level. For example, it is sometimes difficult to generate support for a program for graduates. But often it starts at the team level. The difficulty for a leader is to know how to manage the different expectations of each member of his team: from hiring to retirement.
Each leader must know themselves well, know their potential biases, recognize the different needs in their team, value diversity (including generational), and encourage collective contributions and mutual aid from all. It is by educating leaders that inclusive practices will be effective.
▶️ List the concrete initiatives that make your leaders aware of inclusion and diversity today. How is the topic of generations covered today?
The differences are real but fortunately there are also many commonalities between the generations. Several simple and effective actions will allow you to decode, understand and enrich yourself to build bridges between these 4 generations.