This past week I attended a mentoring event held by NEW where we discussed diversity in a multi-generational workforce. Such an important topic since by 2020, 50% of the global workforce will be made up of Millennials aka Gen Y.

These conversations have been percolating slowly but surely, and it’s clear that identifying ways of working together and adapting to a changing workforce is more important than ever for several reasons.

It’s not just about “making it work” but benefitting and thriving in a multi-generational workforce. Without effort and the right intentions, you end up co-existing and frankly – life’s too short to just co-exist at work.

While it was primarily women in attendance being a women networking association, there were several men in attendance embracing the learnings while contributing to the discussions.  They were shining examples representing their respective organizations and encouraging their male counterparts and colleagues to pull up a seat to the table and be part of the conversation.

That’s the thing about bridging the gap when we talk about multi-generational differences and expectations in the workplace. There are gender differences too. In how we respond to changing dynamics in the workplace, communication styles, management styles among others.

But to be better, we have to do better and whether you’re a male or a female leader, we’re better together. It’s not just about being able to work together as a team, however, consider the long-term success of your business and being prepared for the future of work.

The way to bridge the multi-generational gap in the workplace and prepare our organizations to sustain a workforce that has different values, beliefs and ways of working, flexibility and being open to learning is critical. Instead of the “I know it all, we’ve always done it like this or no one’s ever asked me to do this before” attitude.

At my table, we actually had 4 different generations even though some of us were cuspers. Those that resonate with the generation before them and the one they were born in. There was something to learn from everyone. Even going into the discussion that morning, I wondered how different some of the perspectives were going to be from what I felt I already knew.

But it’s different when you hear it directly firsthand. Learning from reading, listening to podcasts or other forms of media is one thing but talking to people is by far one of the best forms of research. You just can’t beat real-life experience and people sharing their stories.

One of my favourite moments of that morning’s discussions was the only male sitting at our table who was in his early 50’s and said,

“I’ve learned a ton from some of the younger employees in my company and a few on my own team. I try to be a sponge as much as possible and ask questions because it not only helps me relate to them in the workplace, but I have 2 teenagers at home, and it helps me understand them better.”

This leader demonstrated such openness to learning from those all around him. No matter how old we are, how many degrees or certifications we may hold, there’s always, always, always an opportunity to learn something from someone else. If we’re open to it.

What was wonderful to see was this leader using a learning opportunity from work that helped him connect better with his kids at home. How often are you learning something at work that you can take with you at home?!

Here are 6 benefits of working together in a multi-generational workforce:

  • Employees feel heard and respected – all generations
  • You’re EVP (employee value proposition) goes up and you’re more attractive to external talent
  • Remember that stat I shared at the top of this post? 50% of the global workforce will be made of Millennials. Preparation today sets you up for success tomorrow.
  • You create opportunities to up-skill and re-skill your employees and learn from each other
  • Increase innovation and welcome new ideas
  • Reduce the risk of turnover
  • WE’RE BETTER TOGETHER

Working better together in a multi-generational workforce shouldn’t be about having to do so because “you have to” but because we’re evolving, we’re growing and we’re expanding.

As a workforce, adapting to new ways of leading, new ways of working and creating new awareness are not only important in business but from one generation to the next, it just makes good sense.

I’d love to hear from you as always!

Assuming you’re working with multiple generations:

Take the time to get to know someone from a different generation than yourself. Don’t just pretend you know based on what you read or hear. I mean really sit down with them and get to know what it’s like for them in the workforce.

Then I’d like you to ask yourself: What stands out to you as something NEW that you learned about one of the generations that you may be working with?

So for example, if you identify as a baby boomer and work with a Millennial or even Gen X, what’s something new that you learned about them that you didn’t know before?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Remember, it’s easy to assume and judge without thinking or getting to know what’s important to someone else. Share your insights as you never know who you may enlighten with your perspective!