Teambuilding Strategies for Different Generations: How to Manage a Multi-Generation Workforce

Gone are the days when the workforce was dominated by millennials who were happy with pizza Fridays and a week’s worth of paid time off. Now, the global hiring market is taking an unexpected shift, where a company wants to handpick some of the top employees from every generation to build a dream team for themselves. But it’s a tough task to create a multi-generation workforce from scratch, let alone make them all work together for a common goal
and output.

A survey from Resume Builder found that 36% of hiring managers said they were biased against Gen Z candidates, and 34% said they had concerns about hiring candidates over the age of 60. Almost four in 10 managers avoid hiring recent college graduates because they judge them to be unprepared for professional life, according to a December 2023 survey of 800 U.S. directors and executives involved in filling open jobs.

From Baby Boomers to Gen Z, each generation brings unique strengths, perspectives, and work styles to the table but it’s up to you how to make the team set their differences aside and work together. It’s a task that needs a deep understanding of these differences and a strategic approach to collaboration, innovation, and productivity.

Understanding the Generations

Before we get into the strategies of bringing a multi-generation workforce together, you have to first understand the perspective of each generation.

The Trailblazers: Baby Boomers (born before 1946)

Boomers entered the workforce during a period of economic expansion. They value hard work, dedication, and loyalty to the company. Climbing the corporate ladder and achieving long-term success are often hallmarks of their work ethic. Boomers tend to be loyal employees who value stability and job security. They may have witnessed their parents struggle during the Great Depression, influencing their focus on building a secure future.

The Pragmatic Problem-Solvers: Gen X (born 1946-1964)

Gen X witnessed corporate restructuring and a changing work landscape. They value autonomy and the ability to manage their workload independently. They are resourceful and adaptable, comfortable taking ownership of their tasks. Gen Xers prioritize a healthy balance between work and personal life. They may be more likely to seek flexible work arrangements or value policies that support their family commitments.

The Collaborative Changemakers: Millennials (born 1965-1980)

Millennials grew up in a collaborative environment, often participating in team-based projects throughout their education. They thrive in collaborative work settings and value open communication. This generation seeks work that aligns with their values and has a broader purpose. They are passionate about making a positive impact and desire opportunities to contribute to something they believe in.

The Digital Natives: Gen Z (born 1981-1996)

Gen Z is the first generation to grow up entirely surrounded by technology. They are highly tech- savvy and comfortable utilizing digital tools and platforms for communication and collaboration. Gen Z is passionate about social justice and environmental issues. They value working for companies that are committed to positive social change and sustainability. Gen Z prioritizes a flexible work-life balance.

5 Team Building Strategies for a Multi-Generation Workforce

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to team building when your workforce is made up of millennials obsessed with Y2K and Gen Z not willing to spend a single minute past 5 in the office. However, here are some of the tried and tested strategies to help:

Collaborative Projects with Purpose

Imagine a workspace where Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z individuals come together not just to work, but to thrive as a cohesive unit. This is the essence of assigning cross- generational teams to collaborative projects that align with a clear purpose and tangible goals.

The strategy here is simple yet powerful: recognize and leverage the unique strengths, perspectives, and skills that each generation brings to the table.

Implementing the strategy of assigning cross-generational teams to collaborative projects with purpose involves a few straightforward steps:

● Set Clear Project Goals: Start by clearly defining what the project aims to achieve. Make sure everyone understands the objectives and why they matter to the

● Build Diverse Teams: Create teams that include members from different generations. This mix of experience, skills, and perspectives will enrich the project and lead to better outcomes.

● Define Roles Clearly: Make sure everyone knows their role and responsibilities within the team. This clarity helps avoid confusion and ensures smooth collaboration.

● Encourage Open Communication: Create channels for open and respectful communication among team members. Regular check-ins and updates help keep
everyone on the same page.

● Provide Necessary Resources: Ensure teams have access to the tools, training, and support they need to succeed. Removing obstacles helps teams focus on their work effectively.

Multifaceted Knowledge-Sharing Initiatives

In today’s multigenerational workforce, traditional training methods might not always cut it. This strategy tackles this head-on by creating a dynamic learning environment that caters to different learning styles and preferences. It’s all about breaking down silos of knowledge and fostering a
culture of continuous learning across generations.

This approach goes beyond traditional training methods. Imagine a combination of:

● Mentorship Programs: Pairing experienced Baby Boomers with younger generations like Millennials and Gen Z allows for knowledge transfer and career guidance. Boomers can share their vast experience, while Millennials can offer fresh perspectives and collaboration skills.

● Reverse Mentorship Programs: This flips the script! Allow younger generations, often tech-savvy Gen Z, to share their digital expertise with older generations. This fosters mutual learning and ensures everyone is on top of the latest technological advancements.

● Dedicated Knowledge-Sharing Sessions: Encourage team members from all generations to present on their areas of expertise. This peer-to-peer learning approach
allows everyone to share their knowledge and learn from each other’s unique skillsets.

Gamified Team-Building Activities

Building a strong and collaborative team isn’t all work and no play! You have to add a dose of fun and friendly competition into the mix. These activities are designed to be:

● Engaging: They capture everyone’s attention and keep them actively involved.

● Interactive: They encourage communication, collaboration, and problem-solving as team members work together towards a common goal.

● Competitive (in a friendly way!): A healthy dose of competition can boost motivation and engagement.

The strategy also offers a variety of activity types to cater to different preferences:

Social Activities: These activities help team members connect on a personal level and build rapport outside of work-related tasks. Examples include escape room challenges, where teams collaborate to solve puzzles and escape a themed room, or virtual scavenger hunts that utilize online platforms for remote teams.

Work-Related Activities: These activities can be designed to improve teamwork and communication skills within a work context. Volunteer initiatives, where teams work together on a community service project that aligns with company values, are a great example. This allows team members to collaborate towards a meaningful goal while developing their teamwork abilities.

No Favorites Allowed

As someone who works in a multigenerational team, I’ve noticed some interesting dynamics. Leaders always talk about the importance of open communication, but it can be tricky in our situation. A study actually showed that many Millennials, myself included, worry about our skills and fitting in at work. This can make us feel the need to constantly prove ourselves, especially in meetings. We might jump in with ideas before we’re asked, and that enthusiasm can sometimes be misinterpreted by older colleagues as arrogance. On the other hand, some more experienced team members might overlook our contributions because they assume we lack

It feels like there’s a disconnect, and it hinders true teamwork. To fix this, I think managers need to create a space where everyone feels comfortable sharing and learning. This means making sure everyone’s voice is heard in meetings, not just the loudest or most experienced. It’s also important to address these generational anxieties. Maybe mentorship programs or workshops could help Millennials feel more confident in their abilities.

Wrapping Up

The modern workforce is a beautiful blend of experience and fresh perspectives. But managing a team with different generations can feel like a juggling act. Don’t worry, it’s achievable!

By understanding each generation’s values and preferences, you can create a work environment that fosters collaboration and innovation. We explored strategies like cross-generational projects with a purpose, knowledge-sharing initiatives like mentorships, and even gamified team-building activities.