The workplace has always been a multi-generational affair. You have the fresh-faced younger generation of newcomers, the established middle generation that holds most of the management positions and the older generation of senior executives who are 30 to 40 years into their career. Each group brings different perspectives, values, wants, needs, motivations and expectations – which from time to time can cause friction in the office.

This is a unique time, because in many businesses, there are not three but four generations working side by side. And the fifth generation is kicking at its heals.

The make-up of many businesses today include some from the Veteran generation (defined as those born before the end of WWII) who are still working well past retirement age, Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), many of whom have reached that executive position, Generation X, who has grown into the established middle position and the fresh-faced newcomers known as Millennials (or Generation Y – those born between 1980-2000), many of whom are now pushing 35 and are not so green anymore. And, post-Millennials – known to some as Generation Z – are quickly approaching post-secondary age, and will soon be joining the ranks of working professionals.

So how do you build a working and learning environment that is attractive to everyone?

Understand the generational differences

Every generation views the world differently. Understand those differences because what’s important to one may not hold as much value to another. Supporting everyone’s values goes a long way.

Communicate in as many different ways as possible

Just because communication has changed drastically in recent years, doesn’t mean everyone responds well to the latest and greatest. Millennials may prefer to send a quick text but Baby Boomers may rather make a good old-fashioned phone call to communicate the same information. So use them all – email, phone calls, instant messaging, staff meetings and the simple method of walking around to check in.

Ask about preferences and offer choices

We all tend to think that our way of doing things is the only right way to do it. But one person’s work style doesn’t always work for another. As long as the job gets done, appreciate the fact that everyone will approach a task from his or her point of view. And yes, that point of view may differ depending on the generation.

Encourage mentoring

Everyone can learn something from someone else, regardless of age. Encourage multi-generational collaboration to share knowledge, skills and ideas.

Build on strengths

The best multi-generational teams recognize the unique strengths of everyone on the team. Urge everyone to become more of who they are rather than trying to blend in with the rest of the team – generational strengths only make a team stronger.

Having a multi-generational workplace can be challenging but a successful business brings together different generations, personalities and talents to work towards a common goal. This is the best way to ensure that you will always look at common problems from every perspective. 

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