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How to Create a Multigenerational Workplace

ByLynette Reed,
business.com writer
|
Feb 28, 2018
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More businesses are benefiting from a multigenerational workforce.

Baby boomers are living longer and staying healthier while millennials continue to surge into their position as the largest workforce generation. These generational dynamics can influence your business.

The premise for the multigenerational business is portrayed in the 2015 movie, "The Intern," starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. The film tells the story of Ben, a 70-year-old retiree, who becomes an intern for a fast-paced e-commerce fashion company. Jules Ostin, his new boss, initially expresses skepticism for hiring a senior who has no fashion experience. She is wary even though Ben has worked as an executive in a phone directory company for years. The narrative of the story suggests that there is value to having a diverse generational workplace.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2024, the oldest segment of baby boomers, those between the ages of 60 to 78, will continue to work beyond the age they qualify for Social Security benefits. The changes are partially due to baby boomers staying healthier and having a longer life expectancy than previous generations. When you include shifts in Social Security benefits and employee retirement plans, there is a greater desire among boomers to keep working.

Mature workers are also opting for transitional jobs that provide them with the chance to learn new skills. The Bureau of Labor analysis identified that the number of senior interns (those in the 55+ age group) is projected to rise to 25.2 percent in 2020. This number is an increase of over 12 percent since 2002.

Many companies are starting to see the value of expanding the age range of their workforce. The global bank Barclays expanded their apprenticeship program to consider candidates past age 50. These candidates include mature workers with backgrounds in different fields. Barclays found that older workers had a better ability to relate to customers seeking a mortgage or auto loan.

Companies such as PwC, Regeneron, and MetLife have reported that they are interested in utilizing interns from a senior population because of their skills and expertise. These individuals bring contacts to the company from their past professional experiences. This older work population is also able to respond to the growing number of baby boomer consumers. Intern experience doesn't always translate into full-time work. Regardless, there is value in hiring retirement-age individuals for part-time or temporary jobs.

Whether you have a multigenerational business or are striving to achieve one, below are four tips to foster an inclusive, collaborative environment. 

Openness

Try and create an atmosphere where individuals are welcome to ask questions and talk openly about challenges. You can cultivate a culture of openness by encouraging employees to communicate about their progress on projects and concerns that arise at work. When you have a multigenerational office, there is a tendency for each age group to gravitate toward other individuals in the same age category.

Try and match individuals that play to the strengths and personalities of each person and creates a cohesive, well-functioning team comprised of individuals of various ages. The key is to have an open culture that finds value from the multigenerational employees' skills and knowledge.

Equality

Laszlo Bock, Google's former senior vice president of People Operations, identified that one of the top things Google considers in a potential hire is humility. More specifically, intellectual humility. Humility helps people collaborate more successfully on teams. For instance, if an older worker is hired for an intern position, they have the ability to work with other interns without an expectation for preferential treatment because of their age. On the flip side, younger workers are able to view older workers as a valuable asset to the organization. This cultural shift needs to occur to lead a successful transition into a multigenerational organization.

Atmosphere of learning

Society is changing at a fast pace. New technology emerges daily, and social media evolves as new applications join the internet community. When you encourage employees to learn something new, you create a place where people work together. Multigenerational employees can obtain valuable skills from each other. Encourage activities that help employees to learn new skills together.

Sense of humor

A sense of humor can go a long way toward creating a sense of camaraderie in the workplace. Humor can be tricky since what one person finds funny, another may not. Some general guidelines for humor in the workplace are to ensure that the humor is positive and does not poke fun at a particular individual or group. The goal is to bring everyone together instead of bringing people down.

Make employees feel like they are included in the fun. Be honest and authentic. Be willing to chuckle at yourself but not to the detriment of others. When you use affirming humor to unite people, differences diminish. Embracing humor invites people from different age groups to see the team aspect of situations.

Creating a multigenerational workplace has the potential to increase your talent pool, expand your collective vision, and bring some additional wisdom and knowledge into your workplace. This combination could help strengthen and maintain the success of your organization.

Lynette Reed
Lynette Reed
See Lynette Reed's Profile
Writer, researcher, and facilitator with an emphasis on human potential for personal and organizational development. Dr. Reed has mentored people from a variety of organizations to include businesses, not for profit organizations, schools, allied health agencies, Chambers of Commerce, governmental entities, and churches. She has taught courses on world religion and world cultures and also continuing education courses approved by the American Planning Association for ethics, HRCI, and team building/leadership training sessions approved by the Texas Education Agency for continuing education of teachers, superintendents, and school board members. Her current literary contributions include an executive summary paperback titled, Fixing the Problem, Making changes in how you deal with challenges, as well as some book contributions, articles, and guest radio appearances, and a series of children's books with Abingdon Press. She is also a founder and board member of the Institute for Soul-Centered Leadership at Seton Cove. Her academic background includes a Doctor of Ministry in Spirituality, Sustainability, and Inter-Religious Dialogue and a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders.
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