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The Age Difference Matters: How to Make Teams That Span Four Generations Operate Efficiently

Written by: Jilian Woods

In the modern world a multi-generational team is a common occurrence. What distinguishes different generations and what can unite them?  Young people tend to be more open-minded and this benefits them a lot as they are free to enter new stages and grasp new opportunities, while older employees are generally more experienced in their determined spheres.

Corporate success is contingent upon the way these generations will cooperate in their shared workplace. That’s why team building matters a lot for multigenerational employees. Here we are going to describe some pros of cross-generational communication, reasons and ways to build it with advantages for each of them.

A Short overview of 4 generations

There are different opinions on how to distinguish generations; one of the most common among sociologists is gradation based on the coming of age years. According to this logical criterium, we can name 4 of them:

  1. Generation Jones or the Next Baby Boomers (coming of age between 1973-1983)
  2. Generation X (coming of age between 1960 – 1980)
  3. Millennials or Echo Boomers (coming of age between 1980-1995)
  4. Generation Z (coming of age between 1995 – 2010)

No doubts, when it comes to social, human behavioral issues such as strict lines can’t be clear cut. Most commonly a person establishes themselves at the intersection of two generations with prevailing traits of one. If you have such a person in your team, get ready to build the whole communication process around that employee. Double-generational people are naturally more tolerant to the opposite opinion. They usually become leaders because of their charisma. Once you have tried to make use of it, you’ll realize how your team has changed.

Pros of cross-generational communication

Deeper communication leads to optimization of all business processes and this is first going goal for all successful companies. The only thing to bear in mind is that age does not identify the talents. Skills, professional abilities and personal traits  – all bring profit when it comes to advantages of cross-generational communication. Let’s analyze what positive effects can arise from a conversation between employees of different age groups:

1. Gen Jones vs. Others

This generation has overpassed numerous struggles: Cold War, the AIDs Epidemic and mass unemployment. What lessons did they learn and how can it benefit others? Gen Jones employees are the best in recovering after burnout; thus they can successfully bounce back after a failed project. This skill lies in the intersection of generational traits and professional expertise. This skill is their gold and they are always willing to help other members of the team out of internal struggle.

2.  Gen X vs. Others

The world knows them as the Lost Generation. Growing up in the era of divorces, these employees are skeptical, pragmatic, well-educated and adaptable. How can others benefit? In the case of organizational restructuring, these employees will definitely be the best. They know how to distinguish responsibilities and how to establish a well-balanced workflow.

3. Gen Y vs. Others

As children of Baby Boomers, Gen Y grew up when the Internet came into prominence. They took the best from their parents along with new technologies. These employees are the most tolerant, with a high level of social consciousness. In cases when the multinational team faces challenges, they are those who will soften the edges. They know how to deal with the opposite opinion, how to discuss it and make additions without neglecting personal merits.

4. Gen Z vs. Others

Members of Generation Z are open-minded and risk-averse people who are ready to present their crazies ideas. They have experienced the September 11th terrorist attack and the economic recession of 2008. The grew up in the world of mass sorrow and total financial uncertainty. This cohort has cultivated a strong will, self-reliance and strength. They usually prefer self-development and personal interest rather than spending time on boring tasks. Hence is why the search “write my essay” is so popular among them. Gen Z simply doesn’t have any time to accomplish assignments which do not improve their particular skills. These young people are the best self-oriented employees. They are good at establishing goals and plans for their accomplishment.

Team management for four generations

Successful team management lies in answer to the question: “How to take advantage of every generation in the workplace?” Here are some strategies:

1. Create mentoring courses and a bonus system.

Every group is good at something specific, ask the leaders to combine courses on professional growth with personnel management. For example, Gen Jones and Gen X could share their expert opinion on a specific topic, while Gen Y and Gen Z could come up with self-development plans and tech-savvy tips. Establish a bonus system to motivate your employees to share their experience.

2. Choose the appropriate behavior while communicating different ages

Do not ask Gen Y and Z to be present at daily meetings. Instead, create a corporate chat for them. On the other hand, invite Gen Jones and Gen X to the meeting room in accordance with the given schedule and discuss agendas in a traditional manner.

3. Accommodate personal needs

Everyone in your team has his goals and preferences. For example, it would be good to provide Gen Jones and Gen X with a traditional holiday leave and 9 to 5 schedule. The younglings are more likely to achieve high results and productivity in a more flexible working structure. They are ready to submit tasks even on Saturday or during holiday vacations.

Two simple steps to the successful embedding of new ideas:

1. Divide and conquer

Ask the group leaders of every department what do they think regarding optimizing the workflow. Most important is to ask them all from Gen Jones to Gen Z. An important tip here is to have a face-to-face conversation, not a general meeting. Just after you have gathered all the ideas coherently organize them so that it is understandable for everyone.

2. Take advantage of your colleagues

Find the best employee of Gen Jones and Gen Z. The first one is likely to share his experience on the topic, while the second one will help you to present the ideas appropriately so that it will touch the right chord in everyone.

About The Author:

Jilian Woods is a freelance journalist and a contributing writer having more than two years of writing experience. As a writer, she sees her purpose in producing and sharing relevant content with people who are willing to expand their knowledge base and learn something new for themselves. Apart from her day job, you may find Jilian engaged in volunteering or doing yoga.

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