The workforce of today is made up of a diverse mix of generations, each with their own unique skill set and work ethic that all build toward a greater goal — Unity.

With Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z all working side by side, it is the role of business leaders and C-Suite executives to create a unified work environment, one that in turn fosters collaboration and teamwork across all of these dynamic age groups and furthers the greater good of the industry and the world.

Simply letting each generation “stay in their lane” not only leads to missed opportunities evidenced in a lack of innovation, it furthers a generational war that actually breaks down the fabric of contemporary society in many ways. Simple misunderstandings between generations left unaddressed often open the door to volatile arguments and staunch opinions that one generation is superior or inferior to the other.

Capitalizing on the unique strengths of each generation does so much more for both your organization and the world. To accomplish this seemingly impossible task for some, business leaders must create a culture of inclusivity that recognizes the value of each individual’s skills and experience and simultaneously find ways to help that culture foster itself in the future.

By prompting an inclusive work environment that values teamwork between all generations, businesses can reap the real benefits of a diverse workforce. Collaboration between different generations leads to increased innovation, creativity in problem solving, positive disruption, and ultimately a significant impact on the industry. Additionally, cross-generational teamwork can help to bridge the skills gap between age groups, leading to a more anticipatory, agile, and efficient workforce.

So, what does each generation bring to the table? What does each contribute to the overall team, and where is that sweet spot where they align and all work together?

Resolving the Fear of Change with Educational Collaboration

In 2021, we began to face a phenomenon known as the Great Resignation. This is where many younger generations, which included Millennials and Gen Z, resigned from their jobs to find something that better supported their lifestyles and goals. Though the key question here is: Why did these specific generations believe they needed to quit their jobs to find professional and financial fulfillment?

More often than not, the unfortunate answer is generation inequality and, ultimately, a breakdown in the feeling of unity at a business or organization. Indisputably, Baby Boomers and Gen X have been in their field and likely at these companies for many years, and because of their seniority, routine, and desire to protect and defend the status quo, they will remain in their roles. This signifies to younger generations looking to both excel and also work with the technology and trends they have come to know that there is no immediate “future” for them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the younger generations have ways and ideas that are often new to many industries that have been built by older generations. These newer methodologies have not been proven, which in turn makes many of the older generations balk at them for fear that said status quo will be shaken.

The real core issue in this part of the generational breakdown is that change is uncomfortable. What older generations are currently experiencing, younger generations will experience themselves once the children of today grow into working adults. Change will always be unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but leaving a metaphoric canyon between chaos and collaboration helps no one.

But believe it or not, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have more power than they realize in bridging this gap — a power that can motivate them to make the differences they are hoping for. With the experience and professional insight older generations already have around a business, industry, and the world, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers can and should teach their younger colleagues how to think exponentially about their skills, which can move a business from simple success to profound significance.

As you reach the latter years of your career, legacy is what most of these older generations are truly concerned with. To preserve that legacy, help younger generations find their way in implementing their skills in a Both/And way. It is not “out with the old, in with the new.” It should be “in with the new to pair with the old.”

This is my challenge to those older generations to soak up new ideas, learn from them yourself, and help those younger individuals implement them to further the greater good! Be an educator.

Younger Generations and Their Mastery of Disruptive Technology

Being young in a business, organization, or industry may come with the pitfalls of being looked at as being inexperienced or naive. But for those in the Millennial and Gen Z generations, trust me when I say I know this isn’t true. 

Multigenerational collaboration does not solely start at the top of the age range and work its way down. Millennials and Gen Z individuals now entering the workforce — or more importantly, starting to enter leadership roles — must be aware of the skills they have in their mastery of disruptive digital technology and their impacts on both the business and older generations that did not grow up with these innovations.

One of the most accelerating technological advancements in any industry currently is Artificial Intelligence (AI). In many cases, younger workers play a valuable role in helping older workers adapt to new technology and incorporate it into their workflow, and as it relates to AI, there is no exception.

Let’s put a new AI interface that is open to the public under the microscope: ChatGPT. ChatGPT is a web application that uses AI to write from a prompt you give it, and it does so pretty well. Many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in marketing, broadcasting, or other writing positions may view this application as a threat to their survival. However, the opposite is true.

Even if an AI application like ChatGPT was in its final iteration and out of beta testing, that does not mean that a computer can think for itself in the traditional sense. We live in a Both/And world, and as mentioned earlier in this blog, “out with the old and in with the new” is not seamlessly applicable. Human beings need to work with AI and other digitally disruptive tech, and because the younger generations are so well-versed in all of these applications, they have light-years of experience more than many older generations give them credit for.

Don’t be in that category. Younger generations can use an Anticipatory mindset to teach older generations how to approach AI and other groundbreaking technologies in an exponential way, working with them and outside of the box. If you are a business leader of any generation, this is a direct pipeline to groundbreaking innovation, as many in your industry may simply put something like an AI application on autopilot and call it good. Your younger workers know the benefits and pitfalls of these technologies, and your older generation knows how to be human in a digital world.

This seems like the perfect recipe for positive disruption to me!

A United World Is a Better World

In short, the world is not a place for isolation from what we are uncomfortable with. All individuals and industries rely on collaboration to make decisions, foster new ideas, and anticipate disruption and change. While the older generations have the experience, the younger generations bring fresh, exponential perspectives, and combining the two creates a dream team of unity that many do not have.

There are always new companies and technologies that can disrupt your business, but by recognizing the value that all generations in your workforce bring to the table, you find longevity in a profound legacy. In uniting all age groups, you demonstrate to each individual generation that they bring their own value to the industry no matter their age.

It is time to break down the barriers that can arise between different generations, such as generational stereotypes and biases. Foster cross-generational collaboration by encouraging regular communication, providing opportunities for mentorship and coaching, and creating a culture of learning and development that benefits employees of all ages. 

Start by signing up for my Anticipatory Leader Membership to start the journey! Here, you can find a multitude of principles and practices that apply directly to bridging the professional gap between different generations in the contemporary workforce.