Why CEOs Should Be Worried About the Generation Gap

For the first time in history, CEOs are having to manage up to five generations within their workforce.
Why CEOs Should Be Worried About the Generation Gap
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Generational differences have historically created unwanted tension around the office. Seasoned veterans see the "new guys" as entitled and impatient, always looking for the fast track to the top. Millennials, however, see their older coworkers as stuck in their ways, afraid of the impending change they are about to bring to the organization.  

These preconceived ideas that generations have regarding one another makes collaboration and communication around the office increasingly difficult. As overseers of the entire organization, it is the responsibility of the CEO to break down these barriers and encourage togetherness throughout the generational melting pot. Unfortunately, today’s CEOs are facing an extremely steep uphill battle.

For the first time in history, CEOs face the challenge of managing up to five distinct generations under the same roof. With that said, studies reveal that the vast majority of CEOs represent either Baby Boomers or Generation X.

Related: I'm a Gen Xer -- Here's Why You Should Stop Ignoring Me

My company DATIS, an HR and payroll software firm with a focus on health and human service organizations, recently released its CEO Insights Report, which found that just under 90 percent of CEOs hail from these two generations. As millennials continue to flood the labor force and take on increasingly important roles within their respective organizations, CEOs must be prepared to set aside their biases and create a work environment that caters to all generations.

Eliminating the divide and encouraging engagement between generations can accelerate organizational growth. Without upper-level involvement, employees aren’t likely to go out of their way to collaborate with coworkers outside of their comfort zone. This has a lot to do with ego and pride. Long-term employees are unlikely to voluntarily seek help from the new employee fresh out of college. Similarly, young employees aren’t always eager to schedule meetings with employees with years of experience in search of advice, regardless of how valuable that advice may be.

This is sad but true. Employees are missing out on valuable connections within their office due to something as simple as a difference in age. This communication barrier restricts an organization from reaching maximum efficiency and negatively impacts the organization’s overall environment.

Related: Employees From All Generations Want This One Thing From Employers

To reverse this trend and change the way employees interact with one another, CEOs must be willing to take a stand and force these relationships. Fortunately, there are proven stems that CEOs can take to reduce the impact the generation gap has on their organization. Fortunately, there are proven steps that CEOs can take to strengthen cross-generational bonds.

Create mentoring opportunities.

Implementing a mentor system within an organization can be extremely beneficial. Dedicating small chunks of time throughout the work day for older and younger workers to communicate in an intimate, one-on-one setting can benefit everybody involved. Not only will the rookies gain great insight from the more tenured employees, but they will also be able to share some knowledge with their older coworkers regarding modern technology and the changing landscape of the working world.

Outside of the generation gap, mentor opportunities are also great for career development. According to a 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 63 percent of millennials believe that their leadership skills are not being fully developed. A simple weekly mentor meeting could help fine-tune these skills and create a brighter future.

Related: 3 Ways Technology Both Wides and Bridges the Generational Divide at Work

Form cross-generational teams.

Cross-functional teams have been used by organizations for many years now. Bringing employees with different skillsets together to work on a common goal has proved to be highly rewarding. These teams bring employees together and build company morale. If cross-functional teams are so successful, why aren’t more CEOs creating cross-generational teams within their organizations?

Cross-generational teams make sure that employees of all ages are interacting with one another and engaging in a positive manner. In addition to unique skillsets, these teams will also bring employees with different viewpoints together. This can help coworkers better understand their peers’ mindsets and points of view on various situations, projects, and tasks.

Related: 5 Generations in the Workforce (and Why You Need Them All)

Adopt a culture that works for everyone.

Company culture has become a hot topic in today’s working world, and has manifested into a priority for employers and employees all over the country. Another survey conducted by Deloitte found that 94 percent of executives and 88 percent of employees believe that workplace culture is important. These findings are leading companies to literally knock down their walls, making more open floor plans to encourage communication within their workforce. When the subject of culture comes up, CEOs must ask themselves, “Does my culture include everyone in the office?”

Hosting company outings, catering lunch for the office and celebrating birthdays are easy ways for CEOs to bring their employees together in a relaxing, unintimidating environment. Not only that, but employees will appreciate their CEO for going the extra mile to make connections within their office.

The generation gap is more important now than ever. CEOs must be aware of these generational differences if they plan to grow their organization and create a more pleasant and productive work environment. Mentor programs, cross-generational teams, and an inclusive company culture are just a few ways in which CEOs can approach the generation gap.

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