Multi-generational workforces can be a challenge for even the most seasoned small business owner. It’s not easy to welcome new employees who may be several decades younger than other employees.
Boomers are workers born from the mid-1940s to 1960s; Millennials are workers born between 1981 and 1996 and after 1997 is a member of Gen Z.
All three have very different upbringings in a different time, which gives them a different perspective on work in general and life with a new set of values.
Indeed, the value system – both in terms of what workers want out of a job and how they want to be recognized for their achievements – are very disparate among the generations. However, instead of drawing attention to these differences and using them to pit one “team” against another, you instead need to see them as different “ingredients” that can complement and create something better – like the peanut butter and jelly of the business world if you will!
Yes, Baby Boomers are often the butt of the joke when it comes to technology, often fumbling their way through learning a new device. Younger workers were practically born with cell phones in their hand and almost intuitively pick up how to use new technologies or systems. Rather than draw attention to the divide, if you plan on rolling out a new tech endeavor in your office – even if it’s as simple as a new phone system – consider praising a few interested millennial employees for their ability to understand technology and ask them to take on the role of “super users” and pair up with folks who are less in the know to lead the charge to get everyone familiar and comfortable with the new devices.
Talk It Out
While technology certainly has its uses – especially in email-driven corporate America, there is a time and a place where face-to-face communication is preferable, especially if the topic at hand is sensitive. Unlike their younger counterparts, Baby Boomers have never been afraid to call a meeting – or just pick up a phone – to verbally hash something out. Further, because they have had many years to perfect this art, they inherently know how to deliver said information professionally and with tact. With this in mind, if a younger employee in your office find themselves in a communication bind, have a more experienced employee serve as a mentor to think through the best way to resolve a tough situation or act as a sounding board to “practice” a difficult conversation.
Big Dreamers, Big Builders
In the workplace, young people may be viewed as the big dreamers – they have big ideas and are able to research why their idea is good, what it could do for the company, and how it should be done. However, where they often stall is where Boomers thrive: In the actual implementation of the plan. Boomers typically love structure and systems and thus understand how each “cog in the wheel” works and thus understand not only how any change will cause a ripple effect, but who it will involve and how to address it. By encouraging the two groups to work together, you can benefit from the innovative ideas, but not be paralyzed by inaction and vice versa.
You may think that you are operating lean – that you have trimmed all the excess fat and are operating at your absolutely most streamlined, but have you ever polled your workers? With their relative newness to the workforce, Gen Z don’t always understand the underlying processes and will readily question why “the old way of doing things” is still being used. Boomers, meanwhile, drawing on a wealth of corporate experience, know what it means to strip things down and are able to troubleshoot issues from a pared-down place and rebuild accordingly. Together, the younger employee can identify the problem and the Boomer can help fix it.
Eye on the Prize
What older and younger employees each value about their jobs is so different, that it seems hard that they could ever achieve consensus on what it means to achieve a goal. As hippy-dippy as it sounds, Millennials thrive on the steps in the process – Are they innovative? Environmentally friendly? Good for the community? Sustainable? Whereas Boomers are more classically business driven and will thrive more on cause and effects and outcomes measures. Rather than believe that one is better than the other, why not consider adding the metrics that are important to the younger folks to the outcomes-driven measures that Boomers strive for? In this way, you are not only benefiting the project while making sure that everyone feels fulfilled by the job that they are doing.
Go Broad with Benefits
Gen Z value experiences and work-life balance. Benefits to them include being able to work from home, casual Fridays, and even opportunities to bring their pets to work. Baby Boomers, however, are much more cognizant of their future financial position and thus appreciate opportunities to bolster their retirement investments or simply how to manage their future finances. If you own a small company, you know that offering such a diverse range of benefits isn’t always feasible – both financially and from an implementation perspective.
Are you struggling to bridge the gap between your millennial staff and your Boomer workers? A Professional Employer Organization (PEO) can help you to develop a plan – perhaps through a benefits review or even a revised training program – to create a cohesive and efficient work environment where all generations feel fulfilled and ready to perform.