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Our first blog: the strength of a multigenerational team

Welcome to the first-ever PIE Executive Search blog!  This blog will be a regular feature, and we’ll explore hot topics in hiring, workplace trends and the latest in international education careers, as well as provide tips and advice for landing your next big role. In our first post, Search Director Jessica Guiver looks at multigenerational teams, including our own. 

I read something recently that got me thinking – for the first time in history, there are five generations active in the workforce (Purdue Global), working alongside one another.  What does this mean for the workplace and for those managing a multitude of generations at once?  

Generation labels are great for sound bites and click bait, but they’re often unhelpful stereotypes that can do more harm than good.  To me, generation labels (Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, etc) and the descriptions that accompany them are like the signs of the zodiac; broad swathes of the population being defined and described by when they were born, with no real attention being paid to each individual’s personality, beliefs, experiences and spirit.  If you had both a Gemini and a Sagittarius on your team, would you manage each one differently?

It’s true – there are some characteristics that are common to many people within the same generation, and it can be helpful to understand what those are and how they will affect the workplace.   But the skills and tools needed to successfully manage an office or company where 4, or even 5, generations are working together are much the same as those needed to manage successfully in any environment.  

The internet is awash with articles on how to navigate a multigenerational office, so I’ve pulled together some bits of advice common to them all.  

  • Communication is key. Not just open/honest communication, but being mindful of the way in which you communicate to meet people’s preferences , ie. email, face-to-face, Slack/WhatsApp.
  • Respect each other.  Respect & value the experience & knowledge everyone can bring to the team, no matter at what stage in life they are.  
  • Listen to your colleagues; really take on-board their opinions, suggestions, requests.  
  • Explore & accept different working styles, preferred working arrangements, definitions of success.

The convergence of generations within a workplace can impact the environment and dynamics, both positively and not-so-positively.  But if we focus on the benefits of generational diversity, we could see increased creativity, improved problem-solving, and therefore a stronger competitive edge.  

The PIE Exec Search team is a great example of multiple generations working together – successfully, I might add!  As a collective we lean into the points listed above to make it work.  On our team of six we have three generations represented: Boomer, Gen X, and Millennials.  This diversity of experience and worldview brings strength, and also reflects the candidates and clients we work with.  Each generation brings a different perspective to a project or challenge, which can enrich discussions and improve solutions. Generational diversity can bring out the best in each team member as you learn from each other.  

For example, I’m Gen X, and I have a tendency to be too informal (definitely a Gen X thing), and my Boomer colleague will gently nudge me in a more professional direction.  I can also be a bit reluctant to fully engage with social media/digital platforms, and my more tech-savvy Millennial colleagues who easily embrace all things digital will encourage me to give the tech a go.  They all push me (in a good way) to try a little harder or be a little better based on their own generational experiences.  I hope I do the same for them!

Ultimately, a multigenerational team is similar to other teams in that it’s a group of people from different backgrounds, with unique personalities and their own ideas & motivations.  By embracing the diverse perspectives and experiences of each generation, you can harness the strength of a multigenerational workforce. Fostering an inclusive and collaborative culture, promoting knowledge sharing, and cultivating a flexible work environment are critical to success.