An increasingly common source of tension and stress in the workplace is the seeming inability of different generations working side-by-side to get along.
Specifically, the problem is associated with Baby Boomers and Millennials. Combined they make up a large portion of today’s workforce.
Most experts agree they are facing communication and other issues. These tensions can lead to increased worker turnover.
In reviewing this challenge, Jim Finkelstein, President & CEO of FutureSense, Inc., posits two questions:
- Are they really unable to get along and work well together? Or
- Has stereotyping simply led leadership astray?
To the former question, Finkelstein answers no and to the latter suggest the response would be yes.
He argues to maximize employee value and productivity, each person should be allowed to work to their strengths while achieving growth in other areas.
“But perceived perceptions of strengths may not always be accurate, and pigeonholing employees is the quickest route to frustration for both employer and employee,” he believes.
‘Generational pigeonholing is even worse, as it sends the message that the employee is merely a demographic, not a unique individual, he argues.
Finkelstein points out there are misconceptions about both generations that are professionally limiting.
For instance he suggests “Millennials are thought to be tech-savvy, self-centered, socially conscious but entitled.”
He pictures the stereotyping as: “A (younger) generation of slackers that are unwilling to learn from the Boomers (older), who in turn are pegged as wise, but rigid.”
“Obviously, no generation is homogenous, as it is made up of individuals. Unique people, with unique profiles,” he continues.
His solution: “The key to a happy cogenerational workplace is this: to stop prejudging. Remove generational considerations and start evaluating employees on their unique profiles.”
“Accurately pinpointing strengths and opportunities for growth both helps employees to truly maximize their potential, and equally as important, gets them to stick around. And the longer employees stay, the more valuable they become.”
“Turnover costs will drop and productivity will soar,” he stresses.
Finkelstein continues: “When evaluating profiles, there are commonalities across and between the generations and this is where harmony lies. Rather than focusing on differences, take a look at how people are similar.”
“Two individuals who may have vastly different communication styles may attack problem-solving in the same way. The introductory time spent learning how to effectively correspond with each other will be worthwhile when their combined efforts produce fruitful outcomes,” he adds.
Traits like self-confidence, integrity, and work ethic are found in every generation and are foundational to building mutual respect and cooperation. Once those initial bonds are formed, the appreciation (and celebration!) of generational assets can happen,” he has found.
Finkelstein believes ultimately, companies are doing a disservice to all parties involved when they don’t do everything in their power to encourage cogenerational experiences.
Melding and leveraging skills, attributes, and perspectives will lead to mutual respect, growth, and employee happiness. And a happy employee is a good employee.
Employee retention has long been a critical issue. Job dissatisfaction, lack of engagement, and other demotivating factors that cause employees to leave their jobs are forcing companies to spend millions on turnover.
The high cost of hiring, training, and replacing employees is a burden that forces organizations to reevaluate internal structure and workplace culture.
Finkelstein believes one answer is to improve cross generational interaction.
Jim Finkelstein is President & CEO of FutureSense, Inc., and Author of Fuse: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace®