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Five ways to encourage collaboration between Generations X and Y

A great deal of the conversation in human capital management concerns the on-going movement of generations through the workforce

There are two undeniable trends happening in the present day – one, the baby boomer generation is gradually moving into retirement, and two, millennials are entering the office in full force.

For many organisations, adapting to these generational changes is a key point of emphasis on a daily basis. The boomers are leaving, and Gen Y is here in their place – how do you create a workplace that’s a good fit for a younger, more ‘tech-savvy’ staff?

This question is important, but it leaves one problem – amid all the talk about the boomers and millennials, the individuals in the middle often get ignored. Generation X, loosely defined as those born between the early 1960s and early 1980s, accounts for a significant portion of the workforce, and yet no one is talking about how to accommodate their needs.

According to the HR Payroll Systems Blog, one key aspect of HR today is finding a way to build collaboration between Generations X and Y . Erica Fener, VP of business development strategy and analysis at Progressus Therapy, noted that Gen X and Gen Y combined for over 45 percent of the workforce as of 2013, and by 2020, that figure will be closer to 50 percent. Getting them to work together is vital.

“While predicting the future is impossible, we do know these two generations will be working side by side for decades to come,” Fener explained. “The sooner they learn to appreciate each other’s differences, the better off they will be. As a manager, you owe it to these employees to recognise that differences do exist, but they do not have to be negative. In fact, there are benefits of Gen Y and Gen X working together.”

So how can you create an environment where the two generations work together in harmony? Fener shares five ideas that should help:

Encourage communication
This is rather basic, but it’s important – all employees should be encouraged to communicate and work together, even if some are older than others. Open dialogues can always have a positive impact.

Share knowledge and expertise
Different people have different areas of expertise. Perhaps Gen X employees have a wealth of industry knowledge, while Gen Y-ers are adept with new technologies. Everyone has unique knowledge to share.

Build diverse teams
When managers build teams of employees to work together, they should try to use diverse groups with a range of older and younger individuals. This way, everyone can play to their varying strengths.

Provide training when necessary
Companies often use diversity training sessions to help people bond with others of different races, genders or sexual orientations. Why can’t age be the same way? If training is necessary, embrace it.

Always stay flexible
People of different ages might have varying tendencies about how they work, but this won’t be a problem as long as managers and co-workers show some flexibility and adapt to others’ needs. This is the hallmark of any diverse, successful workplace.

Doug Sawers is managing director of Ceridian UK, partner of HR Most Influential