Leading an Intergenerational Workforce

5 Actions to Support this culture

Let's start with the research.

  • Ricoh has research published on May 15, 2019, on the so-called generational divide in the workplace, which found that 71% of workers find a cross-generational workplace an asset to a company and 76% reported enjoying working alongside colleagues of different ages. What was previously thought to be conflict was no longer.

  • Several studies have shown reverse mentoring is helpful in the workplace. One such example of implementation was Pershing, a financial services company that experienced a 96% retention rate for the 77 millennials involved.

  • A study by AARP found that 64% of workers have witnessed or experienced age discrimination.

Why are we talking about this

Even though working with others from different generations is not new, longevity in the workforce is. With five generations represented, a pandemic that changed how we work together, and the reality of unprecedented social connectivity, there are many places we could blame.

We have moved away from leadership fundamentals in the craziness of it all, and if we get centered, we will be just fine.

5 Actions to Support an Intergenerational Culture

  1. Be aware of biases and stereotypes that you and others hold and keep them out of decision-making. This will not be a single training or seminar; instead, it will need to be an ongoing, funded, executive-supported effort built into the diversity, equity, and inclusion system. Of course, you can start with yourself and be an advocate in any meeting or touchpoint in which you participate.

  2. Recruit inclusively using tools, channels, and language that crosses generations. Verify by having representatives of all generations proofread your copy and validate accessibility. It may take an extra day or two for this review panel to get back to you, but validating the posting is essential to being inclusive.

  3. Hire inclusively by creating a diverse interview panel. In some cases, panels interview, but a single decision-maker considers the panel's opinion but has autonomy. This methodology is not effective in building a diverse workforce. It may take longer to reach a hiring decision when working in a diverse group. Adjust expectations and do the right thing.

  4. Build a culture of openness, inclusiveness, and collaboration. This culture is often the goal of any organization, but the operative word here is to build. This culture takes ongoing training, intentional group formation for tasking, and enforcement of the principles when a person or group goes rogue. If it's part of your culture, folks can't opt out.

  5. Monitor employee experience actively to detect concerns. Again, action is required. These can be automated surveys, but it should also be face-to-face interaction upon request, autonomy needed, and the leaders must always investigate the feedback and action it if required. Once you're on notice, you must address the concern, so ensure you have the resources to respond appropriately.

Leader Disciplines Every Day

All of these programmatic efforts are important, but what is a leader to do day to day to do their part? Glad you asked.

  • When you see something, say something. Silence is an agreement, and speaking up is the only way to lead regarding generational inclusiveness.

  • Demand panel diversity when interviewing. It feels so good when the boss says, work through the candidates and hire someone. It feels efficient, and you feel trusted. Hiring in a silo exposes you to accusations of making a poor decision, even if unintentional. Make sure your voice is not the only voice, and the other voices are diverse.

  • When your team complains about differences (they will), educate and build learning opportunities. Something as simple as a team builder or as complex as solving organizational problems together can work. The only thing you can do wrong here is to do nothing at all, say you understand, and move on.

  • Reflect on your own bias. In many cases, it takes self-reflection, training, and study to identify bias. We all have bias, and you may never get rid of it. Awareness, education, and compensation are the road forward. Put in the work.