Juggling multigenerational workforces is nothing new for many organizations. What’s changed however is that the Baby Boomers aren’t retiring as expected and it’s capping career growth and stalling job openings for younger workers. This new phenomena is creating a state of generational crowding.
This workplace crowding is forcing managers to do what my colleague and friend Bette Price calls “gen-blending,” a practice where different generations of workers representing multiple ranks of personnel come together as equals to solve company issues.
Cross-generational teams, according to a just published article in the Financial Times, “are about more than young people imparting technical skills to older workers; they give senior employees the opportunity to learn more about the ideals, behaviors and values of the younger generation,” according to Dan Woodward, senior vice-president at BakBone Software, who was interviewed for the article. “Young people have a different way of thinking and [to use that effectively] creates a real competitive advantage.”
Price believes “The goal is to collectively brainstorm in order to identify problems and get a broader vision of the company.”
One practice that I recommend as a key strategy for getting different generations to collaborate is for young workers to tutor management and older workers how to use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter for recruitment, business development, customer support, and employee engagement. Time Warner is using what they call “digital reverse mentoring” to blend different generations in strategic discussions.
Gen-blending has improved company morale, according to several companies interviewed for the article.. They get better buy-in for change and avoid what one manager called “warm seat attrition,” when workers just stay around because they have no better options.