Intergenerational Collaboration in Mobility

One of the most impactful industry conference sessions I’ve ever attended occurred at my very first WERC conference back in 2003.  This was the first time in history 4 generations were active in the workforce: Silent, Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial.  And while this presented new challenges to overcome (with hilarious stories to drive the point home), it also presented amazing new opportunities for creativity and collaboration. 

Fast forward 20+ years, and the generational landscape in our industry is even more diverse.  While most of the Silent generation is no longer in the workforce, we’ve since added Gen Z, with Gen Alpha coming on strong in a few short years.  We could see 6 generations working side by side in my lifetime!    

PROS

Because our industry orbits around a mobile lifestyle, the desire to bridge cultures and experiences comes naturally to many of us.  In my own experience, I have seen far more examples where a seasoned veteran takes a new colleague under their wing, or a young professional has the platform to offer a new perspective, than I have seen cross-generational hostilities.  The same core values that lead many of us to these international service-related professions also open our eyes to the value of diversity in all forms.  

This is evident in the success of groups like WERC’s YP40, where they are actively building communication pathways between generations that benefit the entire industry.  Early professionals get to engage C-suite executives, and industry experts can better understand their early-career employee’s perspectives and priorities. 

CONS

But even as our willingness to engage with other generations expands, the gap between executive decision-making and independent contributor work seems to grow ever wider.  I feel this is due to an overall lack of succession planning in our industry, unintended consequences of mergers and acquisitions, and a direct result of COVID lockdown and the move to remote working. 

These kinds of disruptions can flip operational models upside down.  As teams react, they can become entrenched in just getting the job done, where there is no time for cross-training, creative brainstorming, or innovation.  This makes it so easy to fall into the rut of spending time with people at the same level, experience, and history as themself. 

WHAT CAN WE DO

Just like any DE&I initiative, fostering intergenerational communication starts at the top with leadership commitment and accountability.  Here are three actionable steps to help organizations embrace challenges and seize opportunities for collaboration:

  • Give People Options – Whether it’s in-office worktime or utilizing collaboration tools, autonomy is key to feeling a sense of freedom and control over one’s own destiny.  A multi-generational workforce requires different options that support their skillset and mindset.
  • Focus on the Work Product – This is related to the above bullet, but from a people management perspective.  By establishing a measurable meritocracy, you can offer more flexibility in how the work is performed.  This primes your team for success, no matter each team members’ preferences. 
  • Force it Sometimes – Cliques happen.  Shake up the status quo by implementing procedures that require or reward out-of-the-norm partnerships.  Formalize mentorship or ambassadorship programs and include participation (for the mentee and mentor) in performance ratings.  These kinds of initiatives start with a culture where it’s safe and beneficial for your team to challenge themselves and work together, and they signify to your staff that employees of all ages and tenures are highly valued. 

The AI transformation is already here and will impact the entire worldwide workforce.  AI isn’t a playground for the young: it’s a transformative new way of looking at how work is accomplished, and it’s available to (and coming for) all of us, regardless of age.  As with all new technologies, only by recognizing and leveraging the skills of everyone, across generations, will we reap the full benefit.  Lay the framework for success in your own organization and career by getting to know folks in generations both later and earlier than yours, and then reap the benefit of a wider and deeper worldview as we harness the power of AI in the future of work. 

About Sara Miller

Sara Miller is an industry-leading expert on process optimization, and she has been a member of the Servicengine Support Team since May 2007. After a number of successful project implementations, and after demonstrating a sincere commitment to customer service, Sara was promoted to Vice President, Client Success, in January 2018.

Sara specializes in training Servicengine partners on the appropriate configuration and use of the Servicengine system to best support their business, financial, and client needs. Sara is particularly versed in Workflow creation and Expense Management tracking.

Sara has been in the Talent Mobility industry since January 2001. She earned the CRP in 2003, the GMS in 2007, and the GMS-T in 2013. Sara was formerly a Servicengine client, working as both a User and a Business Administrator.

After hours, you’ll find Sara watching PBS specials, working on her vintage BMW, or getting her hair colored.

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