Getting the Most out of the Multi-Generational Workplace

By Megan Johnston


The graphic above was created using the word cloud method in a workshop hosted by NVMS.

We often complain about members of other generations – “Millennials are all entitled and lazy” or “Baby boomers are stuck in their ways.” I have heard a lot of stories from managers and employees and many seem to have this common theme, ”Other generations don’t get it.” But consider this: what if instead of focusing on these gaps, we made the most of the diversity of skill sets and experience they bring to the workplace?

Some of the more pervasive sticking points that tend to arise among inter-generational colleagues include differing communication styles, perceptions of authority, decision-making approaches, meeting preferences and approaches to loyalty and respect. These matters are important to everyone, but they look different depending upon the background, experience, expectations, needs and personality of each individual.

So, how can we best navigate these challenges?

One method involves shifting our perception, so that what were once challenges, can now be perceived as assets and opportunities. In doing so, we are able to recognize every generation has the capability of contributing value to an organization. Many mature employees have a wealth of institutional knowledge, professional experience and policy understanding that keeps organizations grounded and stabilized in their missions. Often, new employees are the ones best able to lend a fresh perspective, enthusiasm and a familiarity with technology that can improve an organization’s efficiency and adaptation to a changing (and often digital) landscape.

Inviting qualified individuals to share some of their unique skills and perspectives with other employees with differing experience (known as “bi-directional mentoring”), is a way to capitalize on the broad range of assets in a multi-generational workplace. In addition to expanding skills and engaging employees, bi-directional mentoring demonstrates appreciation for the value that each participant contributes. It can help preserve the institutional knowledge owned by retiring employees and provide professional development and growth opportunities for everyone involved.

Regardless of your generation, many recognize that our world is changing and we must adapt to succeed both individually and as organizations. The pace of transactions, availability of information, technological advances and globalization are changing the ways we operate. Together, let us face the challenges of our changing world by first acknowledging that each of us has something of value to contribute.

See the graphic below for tips on how to better connect with and get the most out of your multi-generational workplace. Feel free to submit comments below to continue the conversation. What are you doing to address inter-generational challenges and create opportunities in your workplace?

PDF Download of graphic available here: multi-gen_graphic