5 Ways to Bridge Generational Divides at Work

In the workplace, it’s no secret that communication methods, experiences, references, and other differences across generations can create challenges among mixed-aged teams.

But this doesn’t have to be the case; as an employer, there are steps you can take to make sure your workplace includes, attracts, and encourages healthy, productive relationships among employees of all ages.

These steps include:

  • Taking stock of the generations at your company
  • Creating opportunities for generations to socialize, collaborate with, and learn from each other
  • Accommodating people at different stages of their careers
  • Ensuring representation across positions and leadership levels
  • Incorporating all ages in your employer brand

Let’s take a look at how to approach each of these steps.

Take stock of the generations at your company

This might seem obvious, but before you can create a strategy that bridges the generational divides at your company, you have to first understand what generations make up your workforce.

For reference, here are the different generations that make up the current workforce:

  • The Silent Generation (1928-1945)
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
  • Gen X (1965-1980)
  • Millennials (1981-1996)
  • Gen Z (1997-2012)

The dynamic between a Gen Z employee and a Baby Boomer is often different than a Gen Z and Millennial. Rather than try to create a one-size-fits-all gap-bridging strategy, a strategy addressing the actual dynamics at play will be far more effective.

If you’re working with a small team, taking stock might be as easy as looking out onto your office floor and ball-parking the different generations. For larger teams, looking through your employee records might be a better option.

Create opportunities for generations to socialize, collaborate with, and learn from each other

One of the biggest reasons why different generations have trouble working with each other is simply a lack of experience with each other.

Outside of parents and grandparents, younger generations typically don’t spend a lot of time with older generations, and vice versa. Even generations separated by less than a decade aren’t usually spending that much time with each other.

Aside from company social events, training and development opportunities can work wonders here. They’re a great incentive to get all kinds of different employees together, especially those from different teams or areas of the company, and learn from each other, socialize, and build stronger working (and personal) relationships.

A great example of this is IBM’s “Reverse Mentoring” program, where younger employees mentor senior executives on technology, social media, and current trends.

Accommodate people at different stages of their careers

Convenience might be the word that comes to mind when you think of remote work. But one application of remote work that often goes unappreciated is accommodating people at different stages of their careers.

Take someone who has trouble physically moving around, for example. The option to work remotely is not merely a convenience for this person, it’s a necessity.

Similar to how a ramp at the entrance of your building or elevator between floors makes your building more accessible, remote work helps make sure that later-stage employees can remain an equal voice at the table, whether they’re physically present or not.

While not dedicated solely to accommodating the needs of employees from different generations, PwC’s “Flexibility2 Talent Network” is a good template for how to create a program that attracts and accommodates employees with a variety of different working needs.

Ensure representation across positions and leadership levels

Programs and initiatives are absolutely a great way to bridge generational divides, but the most powerful thing you can do is to normalize multi-generational collaboration.

Baby boomer managers with Gen Z interns; Millennial project managers with Gen X creative roles; the more diverse the generational representation is across your teams, the closer you’ll get to age not even being a thought in people’s minds when working with each other.

Plus, there’s even data to show that being a part of a mixed-aged workplace group increases everything from productivity to motivation for both older and younger colleagues, and increases their intent to stay with the organization.

One way to ensure mixed-aged teams is by setting goals to hire, promote, and/or mentor in a non-discriminatory way that ensures different generations are equally represented across different roles and leadership levels.

For help with this, check out this resource on promoting older worker participation from Employment and Social Development Canada.

Incorporate all ages in your employer brand

Bridging generational divides at work starts before employees even walk through the door; it starts by looking at your employer brand and asking yourself the following:

From a job seeker’s eyes, do we look like a company that involves all generations?

If not, you’re likely alienating certain generations without even realizing it. For example, marketing materials showing only younger people aren’t likely to entice older people to apply, and vice-versa.

To be more attractive to all generations, make sure the images, videos, employee spotlights, and other employer branding materials you use across your candidate journey include people of all ages.

This means including mixed-aged imagery and perspectives in areas like your:

  • Careers site
  • Social media profiles
  • Talent newsletter
  • Employer review sites

While there are many other ways to close generational divides at work, these five are hopefully more than enough to get you started.

For more help achieving your biggest talent acquisition goals, get in touch with our expert team of hiring professionals today!

About ML6

ML6 Search + Talent Advisory is a recruitment and talent advisory firm located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We provide customized solutions to support our clients throughout the employee lifecycle. We help our clients attract and retain talent by advising on people programs, processes, and best practices.