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Ian Ferguson: Bridging Generational Workforce Gaps

OUR world seems to have regressed when it comes to respect and acceptance of those who are different. At all levels there appears to be a great need for sensitivity and cultural diversity training. This holds true with the multi-generational workforce that many companies are blessed to have. To unlock the true blessing of having Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z working together is the task that faces a management team. Employees in different life stages want - and need - different benefits. All these needs must be understood and honoured without offending or discrediting another generation.

Tech-savvy younger generations bring fresh energy to a company, while older generations have rich experiences and perspectives that bring vision and wisdom. Past technology is what guides future innovation and, in the same vein, hiring older generations of employees to use their knowledge can help companies thrive.

Baby boomers and Generation Xers bring a culture of strong work ethic, collaboration and quality, and they have many important skills to teach the Millennials and Gen Zers. They can offer great lessons in general group motivation, group dynamics, empathy and relationship-building, as well as guide younger generations of employees by sharing trade tricks and industry insights. Gen Zers, on the other hand, get credit for introducing social media and new mobile apps to seasoned workers.

Companies can leverage the benefits of reverse monitoring programmes where Millennial mentors can teach corporate leadership about social media use, the cloud, mobile computing and other advanced technologies that their customers are using. These programmes can make Millennials feel more connected to the company, while the company saves money and time, and increases its success rate with targeted audiences. But do not assume every millennial or Baby Boomer carries with them their generation’s skill-sets.

Each generation brings different talents and skills to the table and, when it comes to innovation, leaders know that diversity is important. Combining different approaches and philosophies in the workplace is imperative to a winning solution.

The experiences of each generation – experiences learned in a specific time and place in history – shape who we are, what we value, how we value it, how we prioritise those values, how we interact with others and in the world, and how we back up those values. There must never be a trade-off between the rich ideas and energy from a younger generation, and the wisdom and insight from the older. There must be a daily coming together done deliberately to enhance and improve the work experience.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.

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