According to Pew Research, millennials surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. That may be good news for companies looking to diversify their employee talent but can create issues with a growing generation gap between millennials, Gen X and baby boomers. Many millennials think baby boomers are old-school and bad with technology, while baby boomers often complain about the entitlement of the millennial generation.
In reality, both complaints warrant a second look, as each generation approaches business and work-life balance differently. Boomers may just need some additional, recurrent technology training, while millennials are willing to work hard as long as flexible hours and remote work is involved. But it can still be tough to bridge the generation gap. Start by reshaping your company culture to embrace the differences as invaluable insights. Here are four ways to get started:
Promote Cross-generational Mentoring
Modern mentoring opens the doors for younger generations to step in as advisers. Create a mentoring program for employees to lean on their managers and learn about everything from technology to networking. A millennial might learn more about effective in-person networking and lead nurturing from a baby boomer or Gen Xer. Meanwhile, a baby boomer may get an in-depth look at how to use social media and why it’s important to customer engagement.
Offer Ongoing Tech Training
Baby boomers often struggle with mastering new technologies like CRM tools and online project management systems. But that doesn’t mean they’re inherently poor at adapting to technology, and instead, need ongoing education. Offer recurrent tech training in areas your employees need most.
However, all generations can benefit from education on phishing scams and identity theft. It’s not uncommon for baby boomers to miss the signs of email phishing and click on links leading to malware and personal information stolen. And millennials may not realize posting their whereabouts and personal updates on social media can lead to password phishing and property theft. Make a service like LifeLock that monitors identity theft and suspicious activity part of your company’s technology training and education.
Research from Gallup found baby boomers have the lowest level of engagement and the highest level of active disengagement for all generations. However, while millennials may be more engaged, they are also prone to job hopping and show little loyalty to companies. They are also the most likely of any generation to say they will leave their company within a year if the job market improves. Either scenario costs companies in productive hours lost and re-hiring and training expenses.
Encourage more engagement among all generations by honoring their unique interests and work ethic. Focus on assigning projects that match baby boomers’ unique skills, and offer ongoing performance reviews and raises. Millennials aren’t usually as motivated by salary, and instead, want challenging work and flexible office hours to foster a work-life balance.
Mix up Your Teams
The only way to truly bridge the generation gap in the workplace is by giving employees more face time with each other. Assign employees to team projects based on their skills and strengths, rather than their age. The more multi-generational teams can see how the other works and where their talents lie, the more likely they are to respect each other for the long haul.