Baby boomers, Gen X, Y and now Z. They are now four generations that coexist within companies. A challenge for managers who have to oversee employees all with very different values. But this new reality is also a chance to go further, together.
The members of Generation Z, born starting in 1995, are gradually making their way into the job market. These are young people who have never known the world without the Internet or cell phones, while at their age, some baby boomers didn’t even have television.
Making them work together often seems like a headache for managers. In some cases, projects can better advance when they are led by teams made up of different age groups. “People of the same generation often work at the same pace,” states Daniel Tanguay, President and CEO of Retail Training, a Montreal company that helps small business managers and employees develop their skills.
Moreover, the grey haired are a rare find in start-ups. “They want malleable employees, and it is true that they are more likely to find this quality in young people," says Didier Dubois, certified human resources consultant and co-founder, with Émilie Pelletier, of the advisory group HRM, which specialized in attracting and retaining employees.
In other cases, like those where companies are particularly attentive to customer service, managers are more easily satisfied by baby boomers or whose target market is senior citizens. “Having employees of the same age as the target customers is added value,” says Pelletier. “But nothing prevents baby boomers, who serve other baby boomers, of training the younger generations in the specific needs of this age group.”
Do not fall into stereotypes
Rather than oppose each other, generations may instead be complementary. “Having different points of view is a treasure,” says Dubois. Our experts see having age diversity as an asset for companies, provided that managers know how to properly manage their differences.
“Values are sometimes contradictory between generations – young people do not always have the same vision of work that older employees do,” states Tanguay. “Creating shared values through team coaching, and developing learning transfers through mentoring is a worth it effort. Gen Y likes to go fast, but it’s also important to give them challenges and raise the bar.”
Although differences exist between generations, be careful not to fall into an overgeneralization: all seniors are not stuck in traditional approaches, and Y kids are not all innovative. “We can not deny that there are differences, but a person’s age should never define their skills,” states Dubois. “Take the time to properly analyze each individual and only then find a way of managing them.”
In the end, supervisors will adapt their management style to the strengths, weaknesses and experiences of not only individuals, but also to the context in which the team evolves. For all differences, not just age differences, are sources of enrichment for a company!