Why is generational awareness important?
The world we grew up in often shapes how we view the world and relate to those around us. This means people from different generations can have different ways of approaching the work they do — including how they might approach a project, adapt to change, solve a problem, or communicate.
That’s why it’s important to understand the general characteristics of each generation, because you’ll be better able to connect and collaborate with people from every generation. This is not to say we should make assumptions or put people in boxes, but it’s really important to have some foundational knowledge on this topic.
Why should team members care about working effectively across generations?
In Commercial Banking, 25% of our team members are Baby Boomers, 42% are Gen X, and 33% are Millennials. This means we all have something to gain by increasing our knowledge in this area. This diversity brings a range of experience levels, life experiences, thought processes, world views, work styles, and expertise to our organization.
When people from all generations can work together really well, it improves teams and ultimately business outcomes. It can lead to better results and increased engagement. I think it’s also important to remember that it not only applies to how we work together inside the company, but it applies to our customer interactions as well. When you effectively build a great relationship with a customer from a different generation, it can reap many benefits, including positive customer satisfaction and retention.
What are some similarities you see across generations in the workforce?
Everyone wants to be respected and know their voice matters. Everyone wants to feel validated in the work they are doing, and I think everyone genuinely wants to see their team and company be successful.
Different life stages come along with different life events, opportunities, and challenges. For example, people in the “sandwich generation” are having to juggle caring for aging parents and children at the same time. But there are plenty of things that transcend generations and are universal to the human experience. It’s helpful to focus on those things to find common ground with people, regardless of their generation.
How does generational diversity influence your recruiting and retention strategies?
The workforce is more transient than ever, so keeping an eye on how well you’re retaining team members is critical. Understanding, generally, what makes each generation tick – preferred style or place of work or specific benefit offerings, for example – can influence the strategies you put in place and can allow you to attract and retain talent from all generations.
Would you agree it’s important to develop leaders across all generations?
Yes, we have to be intentional about creating growth and leadership opportunities for high-performing team members across all the generations that are represented. Be intentional about bringing younger leaders forward and empowering them, because it’s important to develop talent and leaders who can carry your business into the future.
What tips do you have for working across generations?
I’m learning all the time, but I’ll share several that have worked for me over the years.
- One management or communication style may not work with every person on a team. So, you may need to adjust your approach to bring out the best in your relationships and team.
- You can learn something valuable from everyone! Ask questions, get feedback from, and engage with team members who are from different generations than you.
- Successful teams consider generational diversity a blessing, not a curse. They find ways to maximize the strengths that each person brings to the table.
- Make sure special project teams or work streams have a good mix of the generations. This is how you’ll tap into the strengths, ideas, and expertise of every generation to get to the best possible ideas and outcomes.
- Always assume good intentions. If interactions begin to feel more like conflict, take time to ask questions and understand where the other person is coming from.
Try not to focus too much on generational differences, but rather find the common ground. Sometimes, we’re way more alike than we realize!
1U.S. workforce projections are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2Desda Moss, “5 Generations + 7 Values = Endless Opportunities”, 2017
3Hansi Lo Wang, “Generation Z Is The Most Racially And Ethnically Diverse Yet”, 2018
4Allana Akhtar, “More than half of baby-boomer job seekers…”, 2019
5Mary Bennett, “A Breakdown of the Five Generations of Employees in the Workplace”, 2017