Can closing the generation gaps make your company stronger?

Many medium and larger businesses have always been faced with the perennial challenge of being in flux with a multi generation workforce at one time or another. One of the greatest flaws with many companies, especially the larger ones, is that they have, traditionally, removed older workers when they reach a certain age for perceived economic reasons. The traditional thinking has always been that the younger generation will work for less money. Costs will be slashed and investors will be happy because their margins just went up.

But, is this really the way to go? Many companies that find themselves in the position of having a workforce that is mostly composed of one or two generations tends to struggle especially if the owner, or the senior management, is of other and older generations. The further sadness of the situation is that most business owners never actually think about the consequences of creating such a work environment. During the Crash of ’09, and for years afterward, companies of all sizes everywhere stripped themselves of workers over the age of 50. They thought they were going to save some money. Maybe they did in the short term, but how would it affect their long run at success? How would it affect their culture and productivity?

The most successful companies have found ways to keep their older and younger workers together. There is a tale of one small business that found a way for their generations to work together. The Millennials and the Gen Xers were teaching the Baby Boomers more about the intricacies of technology and the Baby Boomers were teaching them people skills and passing along how they had handled certain situations in the past. The most successful of the companies are finding that it is important that there be a physical continuation of the company. It helps, when applied properly, to provide historical context for the next generation of employees.

It is important that these younger generations know what has gone on before them; that they have some context with regard to the company they work for and the job that they do. Each generation has its own quirks and ways of doing things. It is often too easy for the generations to become contentious and suspicious of one another with insults flying all over the place. The smart business owners and managers are realizing that each generation is unique in its point of view and finding a way to get them working together will only benefit everybody.

The younger generations will continue to flood into the workforce as the years go by. It is how it has always been. The companies that will be successful going forward will create a harmonic environment where the generations can bring their strengths to the table and each generation can learn from the others. There are skill sets and experience that the older generations can bring to the new ones as the younger ones bring in the new blood, along with their fire and enthusiasm, to keep the ship sailing. It is a win-win situation for your workforce, your business, and, in the long run, your bottom line.

-Written by Kevin Sawyer