This Week (23rd March) sees the world’s first Intergeneration Week commence. Now more than ever, the importance of different generations working together has been highlighted. Communities have come together to help those who are at higher risk to the new Covid19 infection that is sweeping the world. Due to age vulnerability, people over 70 have sadly been advised to self-isolate for their own health.
The impressive response from the younger generation who have been out in numbers to support their communities – at a safe distance from one another of course – is something we should see in all aspects of life; particularly in business.
Currently, more and more companies are employing a greater breadth of age groups into their organisations. And, although it may not immediately feel like it, a more knowledgeable and diverse workforce is born this way.
Understanding One Another
Typically, younger generations see older people in the workforce as out of touch, technophobic and generally ‘old-hat’ in their methods. While older generations typically view the young as lazy, unconcerned with grammar and very easily distracted. But what is often overlooked is how each generation brings something new to the table.
“At the workplace, the goal is for people to benefit from each other’s skills and knowledge regardless of age. This involves solving problems and creating new business ventures by tapping all experience levels”, says Matthew Kaplan, a professor for Intergenerational Programs and Aging at Pennsylvania State University in the US.
In order to make this work, people must become more understanding of one another. Once the differing generations understand the reasons why individuals work how they do, you get a greater workspace harmony. This is the moment when skills can be transferred, learning takes place and growth begins to happen.
Take the ways we use technology for example. Many older generations see younger people as rude and unengaged however, in many cases the exact opposite is true. Younger people are used to having information at their fingertips. They hear something interesting and they instantly want their online communities to know about it. And this isn’t always a bad thing.
Anna Liotta, author of the book Unlocking Generational Codes: Understanding What Makes the Generations Tick and What Ticks Them Off, explains, “For baby boomers in particular, and traditionalists for sure, it is a sign of disrespect not to look at someone while they’re talking to you. I call this a generational code in action. When you bring it to the millennial’s attention, they say, ‘What do you mean? I was listening. I was researching what you were talking about.'”
“If this has happened to you, it might be eye-opening to know that the millennial may have been reaching out to his or her digital network to help you. At any moment, millennials may be engaged in 40 different conversations with their community, which is global and not necessarily the community at work,” Liotta said.
Furthermore, the younger generation have grown up with an awareness of the benefits that health, wellbeing and flexibility have on business. This means the expectations of younger generations have begun to enhance the work environment for everyone. The young are used to not only seeking regular and almost instantaneous feedback but also voicing their opinions too. Often, older generations are reluctant to ask for privileges that historically were reserved for those in managerial positions.
This means the workforce have to rely on younger generations to introduce workspace privileges such as working from home, personal development meetings, wellbeing sessions and a general improvement in communication.
While the young seem to be dominating workplaces and earning themselves higher positions more quickly, this isn’t to say they can’t learn a lot from their older colleagues too. After all, experience cannot be taught.
For example, one thing that many of the younger workforce won’t have had chance to be is leaders. “Older workers remember a time when communication wasn’t dominated by e-mail, instant messaging, texting or social media,” writes Debi Ritter at Corp Magazine. “As a result, they have advanced communication and people skills … face-to-face communication is an essential skill in the business world and one that junior staff sometimes struggles with.”
Work Ethic and Brand Loyalty
Another quality that shines brighter in the older generation is that of brand loyalty and work ethic. Younger employees are more likely to move from role to role in the belief that this is the best way to move up the career ladder. Older generations believe that gaining experience and showing loyalty to a company is the best way to help them move up the ranks.
In the eyes of employers, the later tends to win. Not having as many roles on your CV can actually be attractive for businesses wanting to retain a good workforce. Modern companies are more regularly looking to grow a strong team of committed, loyal employees who really understand their business’ brand.
Time Tested Relationships
Then there are relationships. Nothing can compare to the business relationships a person can develop through 30-40 years of graft. While the younger generation are better connected and have social communities at their fingertips, it doesn’t quite match up to the associates developed through years of business loyalty. These are the people who are truly prepared to go above and beyond.
With all this said, it is clear that intergeneration is important in many aspects in life. What’s more, modern workspaces are equipping themselves to accommodate staff of all ages and working preferences. If you are looking for a workspace to support your diverse team, now or in the future, get in touch with us here at Officio. We’re always happy to talk through your options or provide some general advice if needed.