How to bridge the generational gap in your business

March 24, 2022 Christina DeBusk

A younger woman, a middle aged man and an older man smiling at the camera

Look around the workplace today and you can see employees representing a variety of generations. From generation z staff (those born in 1996 to the present) to baby boomers (1946 to 1964), employees of all ages are now contributing to the workforce.

This offers companies several benefits, all of which provide a competitive advantage.

Value of a multigenerational workforce

Just as it’s beneficial to have employees from many different cultures and backgrounds, the same is true when it comes to age. Older employees with several years of experience can provide valuable knowledge for improving processes and solving problems.

Newcomers have a fresh eye that, in some cases, can help see projects or issues from differing viewpoints, providing a novel look at what is going on and how to resolve it.

Different generations also tend to think differently. People growing up in one decade may have their own ideas based on their experiences growing up, which can be different than the ideas supplied by others who grew up at a different time. Mix several generations together, then, and you get all the best ideas from each one.

This offers a plethora of possible ideas and solutions. It also helps reduce the likelihood that you will alienate a particular demographic of customers who might be from a generation not represented in your workforce, solely because you didn’t see things from their point of view.

Combine these benefits and it helps make your company more competitive. You become a business that sees things from several different sides and brings everything to the table. As valuable as this is, sometimes putting several generations together in one workplace creates a bit of a gap.

Signs you may have a generational gap in the workplace

In some cases, people who are different from their co-workers find it difficult to work cohesively. Age differences are no exception. They let this difference get in the way, making it hard to see things from the other person’s side.

Over time, this can impact workplace morale and reduce productivity. The workforce becomes more divided, and the company starts to fall apart.

Signs that this may be going on in your company, creating a sort of generational gap, include:

  • Little interaction or conversation between employees from different age groups
  • Conflict frequently arises between employees of different ages about processes and procedures
  • Teams have trouble working together due to differing ideas and/or a lack of respect for what each generation has to contribute
  • Failure to see things from employees of other age groups’ points of view, creating a wedge in workplace relations

How to bridge the generational gap

If your workplace has a bit of a split between employees from different generations, there are a few things you can do to start to bridge that gap and create a more cohesive workforce.

One is to avoid stereotyping. While people within certain age groups may have similar tendencies, not everyone thinks or behaves the same. To generalize about them based on their generation takes away from their unique qualities and the contributions they make.

Stereotyping can be especially damaging if it involves a negative thought process or behavior, ultimately deepening the wedge. Instead, keep an open mind and look at each employee as an individual.

When utilizing this approach, seek to understand your employees on an individual level. If an employee appears to have trouble communicating with or working with people from other generations, talk to them to learn why.

Maybe they don’t have people in that specific age group in their social circle and, therefore, don’t know how to communicate effectively with them. Or they may have had negative interactions with someone in that demographic and are bringing those attitudes into the workplace.

To help turn these types of situations around, increasing company-wide cohesiveness at the same time, provide intergenerational training opportunities. Bring employees from different generations together and help them both learn from and learn about each other in a safe, productive space.

As an example, you might hold training in which some of the older staff train the younger staff. Next time, switch it around. This helps show employees that everyone has something to give, no matter what year they were born.

It also provides the opportunity to ask questions and begin to better understand co-workers from a different generation. This increased understanding helps strengthen the team as a whole, providing a competitive advantage and a more cohesive workplace.

Want to learn more recruitment tips? Check out our recruitment library. 

About the Author

Christina M. DeBusk creates small business content for a variety of publications, some of which include Businessing Magazine, Compendent, Chiropractic Economics, and more. She is also the author behind the column, "The Successful Solopreneur.

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