11/21/2016 01:55 EST | Updated 11/21/2016 01:55 EST

Don't Shy Away From Intergenerational Collaboration

Thomas Barwick via Getty Images
Mature businessman leading group of coworkers in business discussion at office conference room table

We are currently at a historical crossroads where there's a shift in demographics in the workplace as people are living longer, active lifestyles. This also means that workplaces are made up of a rich mix of employees spanning generations both starting their careers and approaching retirement.

Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials -- together, they represent a vast pool of talent and skill, the most crucial resource that organizations have.

But it's time to drop the narrative that continues to linger about one generation versus another battling over jobs, being on different planets or coming from opposing perspectives. It's time to accept the transformations necessary to modify our connections, attitudes, and work environments to create a dynamic and positive workplace, and maximize the success of your business. It's time for a shift in mindset to enable more effective collaboration.

Recognizing the unique composition of the modern workplace

Multi-generational workplaces offer a unique opportunity to blend different experiences and skills in an organization and the challenges of managing characteristics that distinguish each generation. This type of workplace is now more common and apparent, creating professional environments that are rich with experience and maturity as well as youthful fervor.

Companies that employ workers in wide ranges of age have the advantage of creating a dynamic, multi-generational workforce with a diverse range of skill sets that is beneficial to the company.

What they bring to the table

Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers have been in the workforce for many years and are a great resource for younger employees. Both groups also make for great mentors and can be helpful in training new staff on company policies, procedures and history. Gen-Xers can also teach their peers a lot about appreciating independence in the workplace and valuing work-life balance.

In Canada, Millennials have become the largest generation in the workforce with approximately six million Canadians of that generation employed in 2015. What sets this generation apart is that they grew up in the digital world - from smartphones to social media - where technology is the norm and instant access to information is an expectation. Millennials are the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of digital tools than more senior workers, and they offer a wealth of information that colleagues can tap into.

Values and rewards

Each generation is shaped by shared experiences that help to develop their perspective and world views. The key is to be able to effectively address and take advantage of the differences in values and expectations of each generation.

Let's face it, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work when dealing with different groups, and may inhibit collaboration.

By understanding what motivates certain generational groups or individuals, you can customize your response, build more effective teams, and adjust recognition and reward programs that will resonate with each group. However, be wary about generational stereotypes.

One misconception is that all Millennials want to be praised with recognition while other older generations prefer a more discreet thank-you. This is not always the case and as much as possible it's important to recognize employees as individuals. This is something both SMBs and larger organizations can consider implementing on a scale that works for them.

Recognizing individuality

Throughout my career, I've had the opportunity to work on teams comprised of people from varying generations. And in recent years, as workplaces have seen their Millennials populations grow, much has been written that focuses on the stereotypes of these younger members of the workforce. But both individuals and companies alike need to remember that employees don't fall neatly into one category or share traits solely based on their birth year.

Understanding and appreciating the factors that shape not only each generation, but the individuals who fall within them, can help with everything from recruiting new employees to motivating existing ones. It also goes a long way toward helping recognize how best to utilize their strengths, enable their success, and engage them in the kind of efforts that bring out the best in everyone, no matter their age or generation.

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