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Can Your Company Bridge The Age Gap ?

28 August 2018

As the minimum age for state pensions continues to rise, the aftershocks of the 2008 Financial Crisis continue to rock the boat with regards to the age gap between your oldest and youngest employees. Your oldest employees were likely born in the 1940s to 50s: old enough to know that the computer was a novel concept in their youth, let alone portable do-everything devices that fit in your pocket. While Boomers are typically stereotyped as not being tech-savvy, they also have decades of experience in the workforce: something that the other group lacks, for better or for worse.

Millennials, contrary to the stereotype, can range from 18 and 19 year olds to people creeping up on 40. Growing up in the 80s, 90s and the 00s has produced a generation accustomed to massive technological leaps as well as an extensive knowledge of how their devices work, but also a generation that frequently lacks experience and life skills needed to keep up in an ultra-competitive job market. They’re also less knowledgeable when it comes to old tech still used in an office, like the Fax machine.

Stuck in the middle are the Gen X-ers. Much of the current workforce grew up in the 60s and 70s, resulting in a precarious middle ground in which they’re pretty good with computers and have experience in the workplace. The conflicts that can result between the two extremes is a big obstacle to getting younger millennials into the workforce, particularly for companies that rely on decades-old software that some of them will have never used.

Is it Possible To Bridge The Age Gap?

When it comes to the conflicts that can arise between different generations, it’s common to think that it’s the result of inherent differences between the generations, when in most cases, it’s a problem with the culture they exist in, and this is reflected in the workplace. Much like the integration of women and disabled people into the workforce, the problem frequently comes from the current workforce unable to accept the changes around them.

However, the generation gap has been a recurring concern, even in Ancient Greece: Socrates was complaining about the young people of his day 2000 years ago, and every generation has seen the older generations complain about them, so it should be no surprise that the current younger generations are seeing the same rhetoric leveled against them.

The biggest dividing line between the generations is that work hierarchies tend to segregate different age groups, resulting in a lack of communication, which eventually develops into mistrust as honest mistakes are taken as malicious. To create a better workplace for different age groups and close the age gap, one way to fix the issue is through integration of different age groups into teams that are able to communicate with each other face to face, reducing the boundaries that are accidentally built between the generations.

Creating opportunities for the older and younger workforces to meet, exchange ideas and come away with a better understanding of who they are should be paramount in any long-lived organisation: without it, your company will lose the spark that set it off as time rolls on. When it comes to more short-term solutions to the divide, mentorship and apprenticeships create a more direct link between new employees and veterans, team-building exercises and collaborative projects can spontaneously create team bonds.

This, and many other activities and thought-provoking exercises are part of our Tribe 365 programme. To get the best results from your team, you require an understanding of how your employees tick, what they excel at, and how to get the most out of those skills while minimising the weaker parts. If you have employees are new and untested, perhaps Tribe 365 will be the programme for you.

Ryan Shotton