Bridging the Generational Gap at Work

The workforce is at a generational crossroads.

As many baby boomers near retirement age, millennials have gobbled up one third of America’s workforce. Generation X is bookended by these two monstrous population groups.

There are some significant differences between these two polarizing and highly-publicized generations. Between communication style, execution, and technology, there are dozens of variables to analyze.

The 2015 movie The Intern explores this dynamic. Anne Hathaway portrays a young, hard working founder of a successful start-up company and Robert De Niro embodies the role of the senior, baby boomer intern.

The characters are pushed to learn new tools and adapt to a changing landscape. Through all of these hurdles, they were still able to work as a team, collaborate, and learn from each other. A pivotal moment during this movie is when Robert De Niro’s character convinces Anne Hathaway’s character not to divorce her stay-at-home husband.

Here are a few ways that you can entice generational collaboration at your company:

  • Utilizing cross-generational work teams. Millennials can be masters of social media, technology, and tuned in to emerging trends for workplace efficiency. Boomers are not only able to provide knowledge to their younger colleagues, but they can also provide insight into company policies and tend to be quick problem solvers.

  • Promote work and life balance. Boomers have helped steer work/life balance programs and policies. In a world where the glow of an email notification can crawl into bed with you, boomers can teach millennials a thing or two about “unplugging”. Think smarter, not longer hours, in an effort to prevent long-term health issues.

  • Leadership skills. Sure, boomers have been working longer than Millennials. But that doesn’t always make them right. Leadership is a balance and cooperation can promote a better learning environment. This give-and-take is crucial to team chemistry and building morale. Millennials certainly need to respect their office elders, but constructive critique is important for overall growth.

  • Level the playing field. Have regular training and development classes at your organization. This provides an opportunity for boomers and millennials to be in the same room and learn the same material, skills, and tactics.

No matter how much resistance may come from employers and employees, all generations are inevitably going to be working beside each other. Instead of focusing on what is undesirable about the other generation, focus on how what they can teach each other.