5 Generations - Compete or Collaborate?

Engaging Five Generations to Work Together

Today’s workplace is unlike any other time in history.  There are five generations competing and collaborating to produce continually innovating products and services.

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·       Traditionalists – born before 1945

·       Baby Boomers – born 1946 to 1964

·       Generation X – born 1965 to 1980

·       Generation Y or Millennials – born 1981 to 1995

·       Generation Z – born 1996 to 2012


Whew!  It’s tough for everyone to keep up.

 Employers, especially small business owners frequently find themselves at a loss when making decisions and creating plans to address satisfaction and continued engagement with employees across these generations.  As a result some experts suggest that as many as 70% of the current workforce is disengaged at work. 

Companies that are not only keeping their highest skilled employees but also attracting new talent across all generations are presenting a culture view that is in keeping with commonalities among the generations.  Their understanding of the similarities and differences in these generations is reflected in a plan in place that filters through from the “C-Suite” into the ranks.  They present a common front with transparent intentions and actions and accountability systems already in place to be used equitably when needed.

To effectively lead and manage this generational diversity, they must focus their efforts on these five things.

1.     Keep an Open Mind-Set.  Carol Dweck’s work at Stanford reminds us all that we are never too young or too old to learn something new.  Build a culture of life-long learning.  Continuously teach new ways of thinking and of looking at and doing old things.

2.     Develop and use solid written and oral communications that start with Second City’s improv motto of “Yes, and.”  Listen for and build on the singular perspective of each individual to create a safe team where failure is viewed as a necessary part of success.

3.     Appreciate and incorporate the differences that traditional Face-to-Face interpersonal skills and advanced technological skills bring to bear.  Ask, “What’s it like to be you?” then listen and learn from the knowledge and experiences of others.

4.     Dare Greatly.  Brene Brown’s work encourages us to show up and be involved in the fray; to be human in all our interactions and to always extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions words and actions of others.

5.     Acknowledge the similarities.  Build on them.  Acknowledge the differences.  Learn from them.  Build affinity groups.  Encourage cross pollination of those groups to promote inclusion.  Recognize the interdependent web of which we are all a part.

The real key to success lies now more than ever, in the leadership style of Abraham Lincoln, made famous in 1954 by Peter Drucker of “management by walking around - MBWA)” must be a part of every leader’s weekly practice.  Real success is always in getting out there and actually doing it.  Like kids, employees learn best by watching.  Act with the intention of including all five of the generations in your workplace and you will be rewarded by their loyalty, engagement and productivity.