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Encouraging Generation Z and Baby Boomers to Work Together

Office workers of all ages collaborate

To the casual observer, members of Generation Z and Baby Boomers are completely different.

They appear to have opposite values; for instance, Baby Boomers want job security above all else, while Generation Z wants to work for a cause they believe in. Generation Z grew up and is perceived as being more technologically savvy, while Baby Boomers might depend on old-school methods of communication. The divide between the generations seems wide.

Such perceptions of generational differences can have a negative effect at work. A study of workplaces in the U.S. and U.K. revealed that employees who are much younger than their managers are less productive “than those closer in age due to a lack of collaboration between employees of different generations.” Employees who have managers that are more than 12 years their senior are about 1.5 times more likely to report low productivity.

To help members of different generations work together productively, employers should recognize the value employees in each generation bring to work.

“Our office is a melting pot of generations, including vibrant Gen Zers and seasoned Baby Boomers,” said Olivia Tian, HR manager at Raise 3D, a company in California with 150 employees. “The significance lies in the diversity of thought and experience they bring. Gen Zers infuse us with tech-savvy insights and out-of-the-box ideas, while Baby Boomers provide wisdom, leadership and a historical perspective that enriches our company culture.”

When Tian sees occasional differences in communication styles or approaches to work, she takes proactive measures to foster teamwork.

“Addressing potential conflicts early on has been crucial in maintaining a harmonious work environment,” she said. “Embracing generational diversity isn't just a policy, it's a continuous journey of learning from one another. It's about adapting and growing together.”

The Differences Between Generation Z and Baby Boomers

To bridge the divide between the youngest and oldest generations, HR managers must first learn about their employees: their motivations, their work habits and their goals, for instance.

According to Diane Rosen, a workplace expert and principal at Compass Consultants, Baby Boomers tend to derive their identity from their work, while members of Generation Z are pragmatic, skeptical and want to balance their personal lives with their jobs.

“They were the first generation to job hop and want a flexible work situation,” she said. “Unlike Boomers, they tend to move jobs more frequently than older generations and focus on working smarter, not harder.”

Additionally, Generation Z cares about the “why” behind their work and wants to have an impact on the world.

"When the different generations work together, they do not necessarily understand others’ motivations or contexts,” Rosen said.

Whether companies have had issues with Generation Z and Baby Boomers working together or they hope to proactively deal with potential problems that could come up, here are strategies they can utilize to create harmony between the generations.

Hold Workshops

Dylan J. Cleppe, the CEO of OneStop Northwest LLC, a company in Washington state with more than 50 employees, said that initially, his company faced challenges when it came to relations between Generation Z and Baby Boomers—particularly when it came to communication styles and technology adaptability. So, he decided to hold workshops to teach employees best practices.

“We provided tailored training sessions designed to enhance digital skills across all age groups,” he said. “We also implemented regular workshops on effective communication practices that respect and celebrate individual differences.”

Find a Shared Objective

Generation Z and Baby Boomer employees may have dissimilar opinions and styles of communication. But when they come together in the workplace, they have a shared objective: to work hard and ensure that the company is on the path to success.

“If you want to influence folks to think differently, you start by meeting them where they’re at,” said Eric McDermott, a business consultant and speaker. “That means not putting them in a stereotypical box: ‘Gen Z is lazy.’ ‘OK Boomer.’ The older generations have the luxury of remembering what it’s like to be Gen Z's age, but Gen Z can’t return the favor. So, those of us from prior generations have an obligation to help bridge the gap. Find the shared objective and create a shared understanding of how to get there.”

Create Mixed-Generation Teams

At TimeWorn Wood, a company in Minnesota with 25 employees, owner and lead designer Amanda Groebner creates multigenerational teams that include Generation Z and Baby Boomer workers.

[With these teams, we’re “emphasizing open communication, mutual respect and shared goals,” she said. “By highlighting each individual's strengths, we cultivate an environment where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute.”

Encourage Open Dialogue

Another tactic that Groebner uses is to encourage communication between both generations.

“We proactively address potential generational differences through open dialogue and inclusive policies, ensuring all team members feel respected and heard,” she said.

This is something that Rosen can get behind; she believes everyone can benefit from hearing from one another and taking a different perspective.

“Innovation and creativity are supported by listening to learn, experimenting with ideas outside of what they are used to, respect for diversity—not just DEI, but in ways of thinking, working, etc. —and a willingness to be wrong. Without dialogue, they are operating at cross-purposes, and their expectations reflect their own priorities and concerns rather than those of individuals with a different life experience," she said.

Do Team-Building Activities

Team-building activities can take Generation Z and Baby Boomer employees out of their day-to-day routine and get them to work together on something fun and new.

“[They can] focus on common goals and values rather than differences,” Cleppe said. “We engage in team-building activities that transcend generational divides, like volunteering for local community services or participating in corporate challenges that align with our company's core values.”

Start a Mentorship Program

Mentorship programs—where Baby Boomers share their industry knowledge and members of Generation Z offer fresh perspectives as well as their tech-savviness—have been useful for bridging the divide at OneStop Northwest LLC, according to Cleppe.

He said: “This reciprocal learning not only breaks down generational barriers, but also promotes a culture of continuous improvement and adaptation.”

Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.


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