Pairing Gen Z with Baby Boomers: The value of cross-generational mentoring
It seems like just a few years ago that managers and HR professionals everywhere were talking about the impact of Millennials in the workplace. Millennials, also known as Gen Y, were different from Gen X and Baby Boomers. The first generation to have grown up with hyper connectivity and social media, they had their own distinct views of why and how to work. Those views initially shook up the workplace, but now, approximately two decades later, they’ve reshaped it. Flex work and telecommuting are becoming more and more the norm, as are other employer perks that facilitate a good work-life balance. Companies strive to demonstrate social responsibility and provide meaningful work in order to attract top Millennial talent. And the fact that the gig economy is gaining ground appears to suit Millennials, who are less loyal to employers than previous generations and prefer to shape their career path themselves.
However, the multi-generational workplace just got bigger—thanks to the entry of the first Gen Z employees (workers born after 1995). While there’s less data available about this generation’s work preferences, we do know some important facts. According to John Boitnott in his Inc. article titled “Generation Z and the Workplace: What You Need to Know,” Gen Z are hardworking and want to make a difference in the world. They’re even more tech savvy than Millennials, and they’re more intuitive when it comes to online authenticity. In addition, though they’ve always had smart phones, tablets, and computers at their fingertips, they value face-to-face contact with their coworkers and supervisors. Finally, an increasing number will opt out of going to college in order to avoid crippling debt. Instead, they’ll enter the fulltime workforce at a younger age and look for jobs that offer professional growth. As a result, they’ll be more loyal to their employers than Millennials.
So what does this mean for managers? Well, it’s possible that they’ll soon have workers from all four generations on their teams—with the possibility of an age gap of 40 years between Gen Z workers and Baby Boomers! While that age gap might appear problematic, forward-thinking managers can tap into the abilities and knowledge of the oldest and youngest generations by pairing them in mutual mentorship teams.
Employees usually have a tendency to seek out colleagues of their own age group. However, by creating mutual, cross-generational mentorships, you put your employees in a position that requires them to learn how to effectively communicate and collaborate with each other. Having a more age-diverse workplace will facilitate creative thinking and enable your team to come up with innovative solutions.
In addition, Baby Boomers possess a huge amount of valuable information about their profession, the company, and their industry—information that could soon be lost if they don’t have the opportunity to share it. By pairing them with Gen Z colleagues, you can ensure that this information isn’t lost when a mature worker retires. At the same time, since an increasing number of Baby Boomers are working till well past retirement age, Gen Z workers can help them keep up with important work and industry trends that are resulting from increased globalization and disruptive technology.
Managing four generations in the workplace can seem intimidating. However, with careful planning and good guidance on your part, you can foster a work environment in which mutual mentorships can benefit your company, your employees, and yourself.