The Benefits of Intergenerational Teams
the workforces ages we find many Baby
Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) are retiring and the workforce is increasingly
made up of younger individuals. The interesting thing about different generations
working together is that values and even work ethics will vary. Oldsters (Boomers
like myself) tend to assess younger workers as being sloppy, unprofessional and
reality, though, is that very often younger laboratorians and other workers
just don’t see themselves as “married” to a job the way Boomers are.They are
early adopters to technology and tend to eagerly welcome new “toys” in the lab
rather than see them as just additional instruments to learn, maintain and
generations tend to live by the axiom, “We work to live, not live to work.”
They realize they are very likely to have several jobs during their work life
and do not have unwavering loyalty to any one organization. But that does not
make them unprofessional slouches. In fact we raised many of them to be the independent individuals
- Generation X: Defined as the
generation born between 1965 and 1980, members of this group are more
likely than their predecessors to have been raised in single-parent
households or by two working parents. Having grown up playing video games
and using computers, they may see technology as allowing them to work
smarter and tend to use technology in daily life: to schedule, make goals,
tote files around, make presentations and communicate.
- Millennials: Born between 1981
and 2000, members of this group are also known as Generation Y or
Generation Next. As noted in a 2007 Pew Research report Millennials have been “shaped by an unprecedented
revolution in technology and dramatic events both at home and abroad.”
Gen Y is more diverse, racially and ethnically, than
previous generations and is often seen as being more tolerant on various
issues, the Pew report found. For Millennials, the line separating their work
life and leisure time may be less defined and they may be more likely to move
from one job to another with no qualms.
Generation Y individuals are much more likely to entertain and accept
divergent views and are less conformist. They might question rules and find it
logical to make exceptions to rules based on specific circumstances. They also
expect management to understand why the need for work-life balance might prevent them from
sacrificing for the good or convenience of the organization.
Whether you are the manager or peer of a member of an intergenerational
team, it helps if you are willing to accept certain realities without being too
judgmental of those not exactly like yourself. Different perspectives prevent the
stagnation of group think. So the “young ‘uns” may be different, but that also
means they offer different benefits, making the entire team stronger.
So, how do you cope with that Generation X or Millennial for the good of your laboratory? A University
of Notre Dame business school pamphlet offers the following suggestions.
- Value individual strengths: Lose the stereotypes that come with labeling groups of people.
Instead, maximize the potential of each member of your team by
understanding and appreciating his or her background, skills and goals.
- Provide training: It’s not enough
to simply assemble an intergenerational team and expect it to work
flawlessly and seamlessly. Provide awareness training and allow employees
to learn about their differences, as well as their similarities.
- Create partnerships: Establish
mentoring partnerships among the generations. For example, team a
tech-savvy Millennial with a baby boomer who values technology but needs
some hands-on training.
- Be flexible: Acknowledge and,
if possible, accommodate various work styles. That may include offering
flexible hours and work-from-home options. It might also involve catering
to different food and drink preferences in the company cafeteria, or
providing wireless connections for employees’ personal mobile devices or
charging stations for their electric vehicles.
If you follow these suggestions, what is generally perceived as an annoyance
and a negative can be turned into a huge benefit.