How to address generational gaps between Boomers and Millennials

July 23, 2015

In some of today's workplaces, you may find employees belonging to as many as four different generations...each possessing their own unique sets of strengths and weaknesses.  These differences can be both an asset and a hindrance as it sometimes requires different management and communication styles for each group of employees. The differences can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication if not properly managed. 


From 2007 to 2013, jobs held by Baby Boomers grew by 9% while Millennials' job growth was at .03%.  For millennials, construction was the roughest industry to endure, with a 19 percent drop in employment.  This drop may be due in part to the fact that Millennials are more often drawn to the computer, health care, and finance markets.


Though today's workforce includes more workers over the age of 55 than any other time in history, and many Boomers are postponing retirement, retirement for them is inevitable.  It therefore is incumbent on employers to plan for the vacancies that the exit of the Baby Boomers will create.  Millennials need to be cultivated to fill those roles.  The generational conflict that exists in the workplace between Boomers and GenY, therefore must be addressed by today's employers.


Though behavior is an individual thing, and no two employees are ever the same, often generations share similar behavioral characteristics.  For instance Millennials are often referred to as non-conformists and demanding, though collaborative and open-minded.  Millennials are also said to be great at multi-tasking and tech-savvy, while having high expectations as it relates to flexible hours and work-life balance.  Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are said to be more competitive in the workplace and focused on results.  They are characterized as being hard-working and productive.  They are also said to prefer workplace autonomy and at times seem resistant to change.  Some Boomers have also been described as having refused to embrace technology.


The differences between generations require organizations to develop ways to help these diverse groups work more cooperatively.  A few things that companies can do are:

  • Adjust communication methods for each group.  Baby Boomers may prefer one-on-one meetings, whereas Millennials may be more amenable to email communication.

  • Customize incentives for the generational group.  For instance, companies may offer in addition to monetary incentives, which more seasoned employees will likely be receptive to, time off which is appealing to younger staff.

  • Make performance appraisal a more individualized and personal activity, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.

  • Encourage more seasoned employees to mentor younger employees as it relates to their on-the-job experience and training, while developing programs that would allow Millennials an opportunity to teach others about technology and social media.

Businesses are most effective and successful when there is a cooperative work environment.  Employers must learn to value and embrace the qualities that each generation brings to the table and develop ways to manage these multi-generational teams that lead to greater cohesiveness for the organization.




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