In 2025 nearly 75% of our workforce will be comprised of Millennials and 25% will be Baby Boomers.
Why does this matter? Primarily because the two groups come from very different spectrums in their approach to work. It’s a unique opportunity to strengthen culture and improve performance.
Bringing these two generations together might feel like combining oil and water, as Nathanial Koloc mentioned in his excellent article, but if you dig deeper this approach solves challenges for each demographic.
One of the most important things for Millennials in the workplace, after compensation, is training and development. They want to understand how their work relates to the bigger picture and why it matters. I have often heard millennials described as entitled, or not ready for work. That is not true in my experience.
Baby Boomers certainly have experience and may seem more responsible if you are looking for butts in seats during traditional work hours, yet they are prone to conformity. See my interview with Francesca Gino, Professor at Harvard Business School.
“Somehow from very early on in our careers we are taught to conform to the status quo, to the opinions and behaviors of others, and this pressure only becomes bigger and grows as we climb the organization ladder” …
“I think the step that often leaders don’t take is stepping back and thinking all this conformity at work might actually hurt us in terms of allowing people to be creative, think innovatively about problems, solve problems that are close to them, and just being more engaged in the work that they do.” … Francesca Gino
Think about that. We have a group of employees that are highly knowledgeable, yet prone to conformity, and a group of people entering the workforce with energy; eager for stimulation and challenge. This is an opportunity.
The challenge for most of us is time. With our already over-booked schedules, who has time to train? I have found a simple path using the time we already have in our work day.
One of the places where employees come together regularly is through daily or weekly meetings. Why not make a simple change in the way most meetings happen? For one-on-one interactions and small groups, get out of the office, away from your desks, away from your computers and phones, and take a walk. Movement stimulates thinking and listening. It strengthens attention because you eliminate common interruptions such as incoming email, instant messages, and text notifications.
In my observation leaders spend too much time inside their offices or tethered to their devices. It feels terrible as an enthusiastic newcomer to sit in your manager’s office trying to grow a connection and learn something, only to be interrupted countless times as emails and texts come in from “more important” people. Walking solves for that and it’s great for your health.
You can go a step further and create regular walking discussion opportunities with seasoned leaders and newer associates. Call it “Walk with a leader today”. Ask your senior leaders to schedule two or three 30-minute time slots each week to take newer associates for a walk and use that time as an opportunity to talk about company vision, history, future products, etc. Leave a few minutes for questions and observations from these associates, you may be surprised at what you learn.
All generations want to be listened to and better understood. Take time to build a bridge of opportunity and possibly improve your business in the process.
What are you doing to bridge your work generations? I would love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org