With at least two decades separating them, getting baby boomers and millennials to effectively work together can often be a difficult challenge.
However, businesses that want to get the most out of their staff need employees from these two generations to find some common ground around the office. David Moore, regional vice president for the professional staffing and recruiting services firm Addison Group, said both generations are unique, with differing skills, qualities and experiences to offer.
"Baby boomers have decades worth of wisdom and millennials possess the tech-savvy skills that today's workforce requires," Moore told Business News Daily. "If provided with the opportunity and the right environment, baby boomers and millennials can learn from each other, ultimately enhancing both parties' skill sets and careers — not to mention the cultural benefits and morale boost."
Moore said companies can lose out on potential increased productivity and cost-effective training and career development opportunities if they don't encourage a collaborative relationship between the two generations.
"Additionally, if there isn't a cohesive intergenerational culture, employees could become disgruntled by their counterparts if they’re unable to see eye to eye," he said.
To help businesses foster a collaborative working environment, Moore offers several tips for bridging the age gap between baby boomers and millennials:
- Develop mentorship programs. Baby boomers and millennials have a lot to learn from each other. Millennials can learn from their boomer counterparts, who offer valuable insight from extensive experience in a given field, while oftentimes, tech-savvy millennials can provide boomers with new solutions or thinking to a challenge. Develop a cross-generational mentorship program to help different generations learn new skills from each other. They'll both come away with a better understanding of each other, and often, a more thoughtful approach to their work.
- Manage expectations. We've seen strains in culture between generations solely due to mismanaged expectations. Millennials might view their more seasoned counterparts as stodgy and uncreative, while boomers may see a millennial leaving the office at 4 p.m. as lazy, not knowing that the person is working elsewhere remotely. It's important that businesses instill mutual respect for different working styles around the office. Communication early and often is key here to make sure everyone feels supported and happy in the workplace.
- Knock down the walls — literally. The best intergenerational cultures I've worked with have open offices. This way, millennials and boomers can easily collaborate with each other. It opens the doors of communication for your employees.
- Understand what your employees want from their job. A lot of times, boomers and millennials have similar professional goals. Of course, millennials may prefer flexibility in hours, whereas boomers are comfortable with the 9 to 5 grind. But at the end of the day, employees want to know they're making a difference. Ensuring that everyone sees that they are working toward the same end, and that their goals are aligned, also helps bridge the divide between the various generational working styles.
Originally published on Business News Daily.