How to Deal With a Cross-Generational Workforce

How to Deal With a Cross-Generational Workforce
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A Look at the Multi-Generational Workforce

A while back, I wrote an article on the different generational communication styles and looked at every age group of workers from Traditionalists to Baby Boomers to Gen Y and Gen X.

While the Traditionalist might want to speak directly to a supervisor or manager about his or her concerns, the Baby Boomer is writing a memo. Those of the Gen Y age may prefer e-mail where Gen Xer simply wants to text you.

Most likely, if you’re a business owner, you’ve achieved this via entrepreneurial skills, funding opportunities, experience and all-around hard work—unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame. You probably fall in the Baby Boomer range and not only do you have a little trouble with the old-fashioned, you don’t understand the popularity of texting—let alone twittering as a means for workplace communication.

The cross generational workforce, however, is a workforce you must deal with on a day-to-day basis, so how do you tackle these engaging groups that are indeed very different?

He’s Like as Old as My Dad!

Is that my Dad

The cross generational workforce is a challenging environment—for every business owner. Those of Gen Y or X may not “get” the work styles, methods or habits of the Traditionalists. On the other side of that coin, the Traditionalists may look at Gen Y and X as spoiled, indulged, and lazy.

While both of these statements are true, you as the business owner must find a way to merge all groups into one happy workforce. Sound tough? It really isn’t.

Tips for a Streamlined Workforce

My Tweet Place

If you follow some of these tips for dealing with a cross-generational workforce, you’ll soon have a streamlined, energetic and productive team:

Understand Them – This is the key to every element of your workforce. You need to understand the needs, wants, work styles and abilities of your employees—no matter what age group they fall in. By quietly monitoring your employees and encouraging good communication and interaction skills, you will soon develop a good working knowledge of each type.

Listen to Them – Gen Y and X don’t want to use the phone (unless it’s a smartphone) to communicate. They want new technology, flexible working hours and are pretty determined to get what they want. The Traditionalists and Baby Boomers might be comfortable with the way things are and often need encouraged to be all they can be. Are you listening to their wants and needs? If not, you’ll have a chaotic workforce. Listening to, analyzing and implementing suggestions from every generation is a must.

Emphasize Skills – Every employee will have different skills. The Traditionalist, for example, may find his way of the sales pitch always works and has been working for years, so why reinvent the wheel? Those with tried-and-true techniques and skills can be valuable leaders to those seeking help: Use the skills of these types of employees to guide others. This can work both ways. Gen Y and X can help Traditionalists learn the world of technology they may not be comfortable with.

Coaxing – Often as the business owner dealing with a cross-generational workforce, you may need to offer up a little coaxing to get what you want. Those entry-level Gen X or Y workers may frown at working alongside a Traditionalist. Show each age group the value of what other age groups have to offer. Be specific. If Traditionalist Sam has achieved every company or industry award, tell the team how he did it—they can learn via a little coaxing.

Benefit Challenges – The Baby Boomers and Traditionalists want good healthcare and retirement benefits where the younger crowd may not consider their current job—their career or ideal job. Benefit challenges are another cross-generational workforce issue that must be dealt with on a group basis. If you can, offer more than one type of healthcare policy—full coverage with low deductibles is often best for the older crowd where the younger group may want only the bare basics of a plan. Be diverse in your benefit plan and ask your benefits administrator for help on this.

Along with these basics, there are other things to keep in mind with a multi-generational workforce. We’ll look at some additional elements on Page 2.

Must-Have Tips for a Cross-Generational Workforce


So, with the basics covered, what are some other challenges in dealing with a cross-generational workforce?

Keep It Engaging – If you don’t embrace technology and utilize the knowledge of your Gen Y and X crowd, you’ll soon have a workplace full of those who are comfortable with the old fashioned. You’ll most likely be surprised at how easy it can be to introduce and offer the latest in technology if it’s done in an environment where those who don’t understand have ample time to learn the new—and embrace it. Consider training as part of your company development and improvement plan.

Consider Work Spaces – If the Gen Y and X employees want to accessorize their work space in a fashion that suits them—let them (keeping limits on things that may offend). Even if the Traditionalist or Baby Boomer doesn’t understand their accessorizing fashion—or even the need for it–explain it to them. A happy work space means greater productivity.

Play Time – Everyone wants play time, no matter what the age group. If you opt for an outing such as gathering the group for a day at the bowling alley, make sure everyone attends and interacts. Even if the Traditionalist might desire to take the day off and relax at home, find something engaging in the outing that will entice him. For example, a Gen Xer may really love antique cars—something in common with one of your Baby Boomers or Traditionalists—so team them up and spark up a conversation. This can bring not only mutual respect, but acceptance.

Rewards – When considering the various types of bonuses, rewards or incentives, keep them monetarily the same but offer different choice to strive for other than just cash or a day off with pay. The younger crowd may love a day spa jaunt or paid day at the gym. You can find many types of incentives for employees that cost the same yet offer a broad variety of elements.

Accept Their Limits – Sometimes the old adage, you can’t teach a dog new tricks, really does mean something. Those that want things to stay the same may need to be encouraged to change—so use some change resistance strategies. The inexperienced age group may need supervision or guidance so tackle that too. Look at your workforce, accept their limits and help them to achieve their fullest potential.

Reap the Rewards

In the days of the cross-generational workforce, if you implement these tips, you will be able to reap the rewards of a happy, cohesive and content workforce. You’ll also experience the surprising such as the younger seeking the older for advice and vice versa.

Failure to acknowledge you have all age groups and types of workers will mean an unbalanced workforce, and that, especially these days, could spell trouble.

A final note—if you are a lucky, successful Gen Y or X entrepreneur, don’t forget what the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers can do for you to help grow, build and enhance your company.


“Hey…What’s the Matter With Kids Today” by Vince DiCecco retrieved at

_“Engaging the Multi-Generational Workforce” retrieved at

Image Credits:

X-Ray Glasses - Flickr/x-ray delta one

Baby Boomers - Flickr/x-ray delta one

My Tweet Place - Wikimedia Commons/Bruno Barbieri

Traditionalist - Wikimedia Commons/Sayyid Muhammad Emadi