Getting the Most Out of a Five-Generation Workforce.

April 28, 2022

Getting the Most Out of a Five-Generation Workforce.

May 29, 2023

I said to friends long ago, "I know I'm on the right track with a new boutique hotel concept when the New York Times Travel section features an idea that's been locked in my head. Additionally, I know a wild business concept of mine is going mainstream when the Harvard Business Review (HBR) covers it."

As William Gibson once wrote, "The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet."

On almost the fourth anniversary of publishing my last book, "Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder," I was heartened to see that HBR created a "Big Idea" series around the multi-generational workforce with six stellar articles. There's so much goodness in this series that I suggest you read all six. If they're behind a paywall for you, you could either spring for a subscription or enjoy my summary of each article below.

Harnessing the Power of Age Diversity
Are tensions between different generations escalating? In organizations, lack of trust between older and younger workers often yields a culture of competition and resentment that leads to real productivity losses. But when age-diverse teams are managed well, members can share a wide array of skills, knowledge, and networks with one another. Today's organizations already have the means to help leaders take advantage of these assets: tools that have been used by cross-cultural teams for decades and by DEI initiatives more recently. But these tools are rarely applied to age biases and conflicts. To change that, the authors offer a four-part framework of identifying assumptions, adjusting your lens, taking advantage of differences, and embracing mutual learning.

Is That Conflict with Your Colleague Really About Age Difference?
When you and a colleague are from different generations, it's easy to assume that disagreements are due to the age gap. But how can you be sure that you have a generational conflict? And if you are, how should you address it? The first step is to steer clear of stereotypes. There is little evidence to support our assumptions about people younger or older than us. Ask yourself what else might be going on between you and your coworker, recognizing that common — and productive — tensions often come up between people from different age groups. Then address the specific problem and focus on a shared goal that you both care about. And take the time, even though it might feel arduous, to be explicit about how you'll collaborate to avoid misunderstandings and misperceptions.

Is Generational Prejudice Seeping into Your Workplace?
If you had to name three characteristics of Millennials or Gen Zers right now, you probably could, right? But your generalizations may be largely borne from stereotypes. And they're not just momentarily unhelpful; they influence everything from how we perceive and treat our colleagues to how we design processes at work. Suppose generational differences aren't as significant as we think. How do we make our workplaces, policies, and processes rely less on assumptions and more on ideologies that aren't rooted in age? First, understand the history of generational stereotypes at work, who has benefited from them, and why we like to place people into buckets. Next, learn how to create prejudice-free processes and policies that can work for all employees, irrespective of birth year.

I Was a Manager in an Ageist Workplace
Ageism is alive and well in the workplace. Studies show almost 65% of workers say they have experienced age-based discrimination. But even though it's common, leaders can recognize and combat ageism to make organizations equitable, supportive, and inclusive. In this article, one manager shares her experience working in an ageist culture and learning to overcome bias against age.

How Shadow Boards Bridge Generational Divides
A shadow board consists of non-executive employees who work with senior executives on strategic initiatives. It is designed to leverage insights from younger generations and diversify the perspectives exposed to executives. These boards can test and pilot novel initiatives that are important to younger employees, bridge generational gaps between workers, and create respect and understanding across the organizational hierarchy.

Work in the Era of No Retirement
As the world's overall population skews older, the workforce is aging, with more older adults working well beyond what used to be considered the typical retirement age. Older adults are the fastest-growing segment of the American workforce, but ageist attitudes about this population persist in the workplace and the job market. Contrary to common assumptions, older workers do not cost more than younger workers and are not technology averse; their longevity brings numerous benefits to the workplace. Companies can create a thriving five-generation workforce by recognizing older workers' value and changing models of upskilling and learning.

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