One Tool for the Multigenerational Workforce you Might be Undervaluing

Meghan LeVota
Feb 1, 2018 · 5 min read

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For the first time in recent history, five generations of workers are now employed side by side. This offers both an opportunity and a challenge to modern companies.

Engaging a multigenerational team can be difficult. But, it is shockingly simple when you exercise one tool: empathy.

You might be wondering — how does the year one was born has anything to do with collaboration? But the reality is, shared experiences can create common personality traits that bind people together in significant ways.

For example, you can expect someone who came of age during a recession to have a vastly different perspective about how the world works than someone who was born shortly after a post­war economic boom. This can create friction in the workplace when ideas are seen as tried and true procedures for some, and ancient history for others.

The key to working with any person different than you is to acknowledge the fact that they’ve also had a different life experience than you. If teams acknowledge that experience, they can begin to learn from one another and grow. When you embrace multiple generations, you are embracing a diversity of thought.

According to a 2015 report on employee job satisfaction and engagement from SHRM, respectful treatment is rated as the top indicator for employee satisfaction and engagement. Here’s how to better respect and understand where employees of each generation is coming from, while leveraging their unique strengths.

Silent Generation
Born: 1928 to 1945
Shaped by: World War II, Vietnam War, Korean War, the Great Depression, the New Deal

  • This generation has witnessed the most drastic changes in their lifetime. Allow them to advise companies on how to maintain stability and structure.

Baby Boomers
Born: 1946 to 1964
Shaped by: Economic prosperity, the Civil Rights movement, the moon landing, Woodstock, Rock & Roll and the JFK assassination

  • Baby Boomers are typically described as optimistic and entrepreneurial. They have faith that the world will improve over time, due to their own experience observing historical changes. Workers from other generations ought to ask Baby Boomers about what keeps their positive energy up.

Generation X
Born: 1965 to 1980
Shaped by: Watergate, Layoffs, family instability, MTV, the end of the Cold War

  • Many Generation X­ers had less parental supervision and micro-management during childhood than other generations, as a result of many more mothers entering the workforce. Their self reliance and independence is a great asset to firms.

Born: 1981 to 1997
Shaped by: 9/11, the Great Recession, the rise of the Internet, school shootings, after school activities, helicopter parents

  • Millennials have witnessed several business and social structures collapse in their short lifetimes. When they share feedback, listen — it just might future proof your business.

Generation Z
1998 and later
Shaped by: terrorism, climate change, smartphones, social media, the shareable economy, Cyber­bullying

  • This generation are growing up during a time of instability, so it can be hard for them to envision themselves working at a company for multiple decades. Managers ought to offer emotional investment and mentorship to Generation Z­ers if they hope to attract company loyalty.

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