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One of the things that makes today’s workplaces interesting is the diversity of people in them. We talk a lot about diversity, and often refer to the importance of gender balance. In this blog we want to focus on the diversity of generations and how you can bridge the gap that can sometimes appear between them.

Most organisation will have three different generations of employees: baby boomers, generation Xers and millennials. Demographically, they span the best-part of a century and each group has different sets of values and experiences, both in and out of work. They can all bring valuable skills and when they work together, can produce stunning results. However, each group sometimes has a perception (usually wrong) about one or more of the others that might stop them working together to their full potential.

So let’s have a look in a bit more detail at each of these generations, and what they can bring to an organisation. And more importantly, how they can harmonise with each other as beautifully as on a Beach Boys’ song.

Baby boomers are so-called because they’re part of the ‘baby boom’ that followed World War 11 right up to the early 1960s. This group have lived through tremendously exciting times, both culturally and socially, and have adapted their working methods several times. They’re likely to be fairly affluent, own their homes and have kids that have flown the nest.

This group will have had households where the man was probably the main breadwinner and parenting was left to the wives. Baby boomers will be successful in work and have often sacrificed family time for their careers.

A lot of this generation will have retired as they’re also more likely to have decent pension schemes. But those in work might be right at the top of organisations, or have taken a later-life career change. One mis-conception among younger workers is that they’re ‘dinosaurs’ left over from a bygone age whose old-fashioned attitudes have no place anymore. Technology has advanced at a huge rate in their lifetime too, but they’re not always seen to be all that comfortable with it.

After the baby boomers comes Generation X. Born in the mid-to-late 60s to the early 80s, this group are the first to not do as well financially as their predecessors despite more of them going onto further education. They were often seen as disaffected and alienated in their formative years, and many have had to grow up with one parent because of increased divorce rates in their parents.

In the workplace, generation Xers have also had to adapt as they’ve made the switch to a digital world and they’re likely to experience redundancy at least once in their lifetime. Men are no longer the sole breadwinners or the highest earner in the family. This group tend to lead really busy lives with children either at school or university and will spend time juggling commitments. Both parents will share childcare duties so they look for flexibility and benefits to help achieve a better work-life balance rather than always chasing a big pay cheque.

They may be viewed as potential rivals ready to step into the shoes of older, baby boomer colleagues, while younger millennials might look at them in the same way they view their parents – not knowing much and there to stop them doing what they want.

And so to millennials. Or generation Y as some people are now calling them because of the negative connotations the word millennial is starting to take on. This group, born anywhere between the early 80s and the early 00s, having grown up with technology and see it as a great thing. They’ll rely on the bank of mum and dad more than ever before to get on the property ladder, and are sometimes seen as being ‘delicate’ and ‘workshy’ by the older generation.

For an organisation to really be successful, you need a combination of these groups that know how to work together. Take the enthusiasm of the youthful millennials, add in the experience and adaptability of the generation X guys, and top it off with the invaluable knowledge and leadership of the baby boomers, and you’re on to a winner.

To grow, every organisation needs new blood to think up new ideas and develop. That’s where Millennials come in. They can help older workers with new tech and use their drive and exuberance to move things forward. But they might not know how to deal with people issues or understand certain situations that crop up, so they need the help of generation Xers and their life experience.

Baby boomers have knowledge and an understanding of how business works they can impart on others. They’ve been there and done it. But they need the younger generations to help them adapt and take a more modern viewpoint. Baby boomers are probably less likely to engage with social media while millennials won’t understand what it takes to work for 40+ years in an organisation.

Bridging the generation gap is about understanding what each brings to your organisation and knowing how to get them working in perfect harmony. Are you doing this is your organisation?