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Managing intergeneration, myth or reality

by Technologia
June 13, 2022
Managing intergeneration, myth or reality

In fact, most generations are working together in companies, from Boomers to Ys (or even Zs), from those who have just left school to those who are postponing their retirement. These generations do not have the same references or the same aspirations. How can we take advantage of this difference rather than let it become a source of conflict? Is intergeneration in a team a challenge or an opportunity? In a word: how to make a winning team out of an inevitable reality?


Let's start by clarifying things: who is who?

What are the different generations and their characteristics

Boomers (1946-1964): priority to career and salary. Traditional methods are favored.

X (1965-1980): priority to independence and willingness to work overtime. Easily entrepreneurial.

Y, the millennials (1983-1996): priority to fulfillment, work/life balance. The first to be immersed in technology and therefore hyper-connected and favoring online collaborative platforms.

Z (1997- today): also called Digital Natives, they are just out of school and are convinced that technology will help communication. They focus on their colleagues more than on anything else.

Broadly speaking, we could say that Boomers and Gen-Xers are more materialistic and status-oriented, while Ys and Zs are more in search of meaning and, to some extent, happiness.

Let's put some limits to what has just been said: your generation does not inevitably determine your professional aspirations. And it is often more on the form than on the substance that differences emerge. Provided that a few key elements are clear to everyone, we will come back to this.

What are the possible issues of this generational mix?

Although the descriptions of each generation given above may be cliché, they are very much alive and can be found in the perceptions of both sides. "Young people have no sense of work", "old people are hostile to change", "young people don't respect anything", "old people are completely out of touch", etc. For a company, this can represent a challenge if the differences are poorly managed:

Issue in knowledge transfer.

If your expert retires and the sum of his know-how is not documented, and those who remain are not trained (or are in the process of being trained), it is potentially a part of your business that is also retiring.

Team cohesion issue.

If employees are pulling at each other and collaborating poorly, this does not bode well. You will end up with deliverables that are late or that do not meet the requirements, especially because accountability will have become blurred and all the reasons will be good to point the finger at the other. It is also a degraded work atmosphere... which often generates a high turnover rate.

Organizational challenge.

First, succeed in attracting the talents of the younger generations, then succeed in retaining them, anticipating that they will probably not stay, no matter what. Also expect to have to respond to the need for transparency, values and involvement of some.

Objective issue.

Between poorly documented knowledge and poorly executed collaborations, you don't need an MBA to understand that achieving objectives will not be easy...

With a labour shortage that we know will last, organizations, and especially their managers, will have to make do with what they can. In other words, they will have to find ways to make all these people live together, collaborate and contribute to results.

How to manage generations despite their differences

You can change your management style depending on the profile (stated above) you are addressing. You have to be a bit of a contortionist at heart and it is not an easy position to take. After all, not everyone is a chameleon. The goal is therefore more to adapt (than to change) one's management style, and thus contribute to the fact that each generation adapts to the others in return.

In fact, as with any team, the goal is to foster collaboration. And it shouldn't be that difficult or that much of a generational issue. As experts say, every generation has tended to blame the next (young people are lazy... but many of them have a job outside of school), when often, when you dig deeper, the aspirations are similar (balancing personal and professional).

And the means to achieve this can be varied. First of all, because the professional and personal objectives of each of them are different and probably independent of age. The team leader will therefore not put forward the same benefits to be gained from the new project to be delivered, for example. Then he will have to communicate differently depending on the nature of the message and the target.

More broadly, managers have "natural" tools to help them in their role. Starting with the company's values. They should naturally resonate with those of the team members. If they don't, the employee will not stay, regardless of their generation. What's more, let's remember that values are surprisingly not that disparate from one generation to the next.

Once everyone is in agreement with the company's values and vision, other actions are possible. This makes it easier to manage an intergenerational team.

  • By focusing on individual motivations, a role that already belongs to the manager.
    By encouraging empowerment: by involving those who ask for it in the decision-making process and by giving responsibilities to those who feel capable of it. And therefore by accepting to try things out as a manager, with a certain tolerance for risk (a measured risk because the previous suggestions must take place gradually). This has a double benefit: leading by example and encouraging a form of innovation.
  • By introducing mentoring and reverse mentoring. First, because we all have to learn from each other, but also to limit (or even erase) the generational divide and solidify the team. By working together, we understand, tolerate and accept each other. Afterwards, the level of tension is much lower because the members have a better understanding of each other. Moreover, to cement this beginning of mobilization even more, why not organize moments outside of work. These are great opportunities to discover common passions and to put into perspective the differences that one imagines in the other.
  • By developing each other's soft skills. A training plan is useful to attract and retain talent, but also to allow them to develop. If the training is sponsored by the company, it will be consistent with the business objectives. It's a win-win situation.
  • By maintaining intergenerational, and therefore heterogeneous, teams. Because it is our individual differences that make the group stronger, among other things, through collective intelligence. And by getting the team involved in a common project (with different deliverables, of course) and clear objectives. This does not prevent us from acknowledging individual contributions.


Managing an intergenerational team is not easy, but it is not radically different from managing a standard team, if it exists at all. It is first a matter of identifying the differences and motivations of each person in order to respond accordingly and to create interest first and then buy-in. This obviously requires adaptation. But here again, there is nothing new under the sun for managers. Especially since this adaptation, if successful, opens the door to a team that is united and efficient because it is aware of its multiple strengths.

To go further :

Intergeneration: ensuring cohesion and performance in the team

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