Strength in Generations: The many benefits of age diversity in the workplace
Today’s workforce spans five generations — which can be a recipe for conflict when each generation comes to work with different worldviews, values and communication styles. But it’s also an opportunity to foster collaboration and leverage each generation’s strengths.
“Sometimes we’re just tripping over each other or walking on eggshells because we don’t understand each other and we put wrong labels on each other,” said Gracie Johnson-Lopez, a national speaker on the issue of generational differences in the workplace.
As president of consulting firm Diversity & HR Solutions, Johnson-Lopez frequently encounters the topic of cross-generational dynamics. She said that taking a deliberate approach to assembling age-diverse teams can be highly beneficial.
Research shows age diversity can boost good decision-making and speed up results — in fact, one study found that multigenerational teams (with an age range spanning 25 years or more) were two times more likely to meet or exceed benchmarks.
Having age diversity in the workplace also enables a culture of mentorship — in all directions. Johnson-Lopez advises workers to utilize the wealth of experience and institutional knowledge older generations have to offer while not overlooking the strengths that newer members of the workforce can share.
Making sure younger workers feel valued is critical considering that 43 percent of millennials and 61 percent of Gen Z’ers envision leaving their current job within just two years. If every employee — including the youngest — feels like they are contributing value and being appreciated, said Johnson-Lopez, that goes a long way toward high morale and retention.
“What a novel idea if you say to a young person, ‘We’d like you to help us with this.’ Talk about engagement!” she said.
Whether it’s a Gen Z’er giving a boomer a social media tutorial or a traditionalist giving career advice to a millennial, leaving egos at the door and being teachable is key at any age.
“We look at the makeup of the world, and we can see the fallout on many different levels when all voices aren’t heard and where we’re not leveraging and harnessing the perspectives, talents and views of a multigenerational society — much less a multigenerational workplace,” Johnson-Lopez said. “And when we make room for all the generations at the table, I think that’s when we discover real results and the answers that allow us to move forward together.”