"Nothing is too difficult for youth," said Socrates. The millennials have entered the labour market in recent years and many companies – especially the start-ups of the digital world – are trying to attract them. Their energy, as well as being digital natives, make them very attractive for companies actively seeking to meet the challenges of digital transformation. In 2016, millennials made up around a quarter of the UK population, and by 2019 they are predicted to hit the 17 million mark.
On the other side are the older employees, who belong to the baby boomer generation. Over the age of 50, they have a strong professional track record, but are often used to more "old-fashioned" working practices.
It is important to be wary of generalisations; the boundaries are undoubtedly more blurred and exhaustively describing the characteristics of a "generation" is a challenge – some baby boomers know more about technology than millennials, after all! But these two generations have one common feature: they have a high unemployment rate. The challenge today is to develop their strengths to improve their employability.
While each generation has its different values and characteristics, they are equally useful for companies. The professional motives of millennials and baby boomers are perhaps among the most striking differences between the two generations. The younger generation are looking for flexible schedules, collaboration, and contact, and want constant feedback in response to their work. Contrastingly, baby boomers are more stimulated by the recognition of their status within the company and the value of their contributions.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to combine these two worlds? The millennials bring a new vision to digital matters and show a strong spirit of initiative. On the other hand, baby boomers will have accumulated invaluable experience and in-depth knowledge of the company that can prove very useful in solving all kinds of problems and conveying the culture and values of the company. They are also likely to have a particularly strong commitment to their company, so they can be counted on in difficult situations.
So, what are some ways HR can help millennials and baby boomers work together?
Mentoring and reverse mentoring
Baby boomers and millennials both lack things that the other one needs. Millennials need mentoring and guidance whereas baby boomers primarily need a little reassurance. Set up a formal mentoring scheme, encouraging both groups to share their knowledge in order to create a sense of accomplishment.
Brainstorms with multiple generations
Make sure your company maintains a dialogue amongst your employees. Baby boomers may prefer face to face meetings whereas millennials will do most of their talking over email or messaging apps. Companies should offer both forms of communication, perhaps split into formal and informal channels. Hold meetings for multiple generations to ensure employees talk to their co-workers, encourage them to share ideas and thoughts.
Construct diverse teams
When planning your teams, make sure to include a range of employees from different age groups. Ask them to complete a project together to achieve a common end result. Finding a common ground is key to making it successful. Perhaps putting on a lunch or hosting some after work drinks would help incentivise your teams and help them work together more effectively.
Create an ongoing dialogue
Communication is key when bridging the gap between millennials and baby boomers. Encourage constant feedback and as their employer, ask how things can be improved. Don’t let your employees keep their frustrations to themselves, this could result in a huge problem for your organisation.
These two generations are very different, but the combination of the two can increase your chances of success. Knowing how to recognise and manage the strengths and weaknesses of each of them is a task that the HR can carry out in order to make the most of the talents they possess.
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