How to Connect Generations in the Workplace

Seven principles to help you strengthen the bond between workers of all ages

Connecting Generations

As little as five years ago, millennials was considered a bad word. Back in 2013, I would get my fair share of backlash from my presentations’ attendees while doing what few were doing at the time: Flying millennials’ flags high, connecting five generations, and showing why each generation is critical. In doing so, I stirred things up and upset some people along the way. 

Thankfully, most folks soon began to see millennials as the valuable contributors that they are. After my presentations, I even had attendees thank me for helping them understand millennials’ unique talents, characteristics, and motivations. Now, millennials are leading cleaning businesses across North America, working alongside baby boomers and co-workers in Generation X and Generation Z.

Communication between these groups isn’t always easy, but it is essential for organizational success. Listening to staff in each generation will help you improve retention, increase productivity, and keep your customers happy. 

I recently had a phone conversation about the challenges and opportunities that come with having multiple generations in the workplace. A manager who had seen one of my presentations described how poor communication between the different generations at her company was causing friction and anger and was lowering productivity.

I explained to her that by understanding nuances and each generation’s perspective, she and the company’s other leaders could grow connections and relationships between employees. 

Once we understand what’s getting in the way of communication between generations, information sharing, and productivity will grow. It’s a cool thing to watch.

Principles for generational success

I ran a five-year research project at conferences, where I collected data on generations. After sorting through it, I concluded that connecting generations in the workplace can be done if top management supports these seven principles:

Share the big picture. Sharing your vision, goals, and direction with staff on a regular basis empowers individuals and creates opportunities for discussion and cooperation between generations. 

Encourage respect. This principle speaks for itself. However, older and younger generations need to be reminded that each brings valuable talent and experience to the workplace.

Listen. Leaders, managers, and owners who listen to their staff give their
businesses a huge advantage. You’ll learn valuable information and create a culture where individuals of all generations are open to sharing, which builds trust.

Mentor and train. Beyond the initial training that employees receive, statistics show that continued training and mentoring improves retention, strengthens relationships, and
provides opportunities for different generations to learn from one another. Communication between generations grows as we focus on individuals and commonalities.

Give positive feedback. Everyone in the workplace wants this, whether the employee is 18 or 88. It is as contagious as laughter, it makes you feel noticed and appreciated, and you stand a little taller.

Foster communication. Even one hour of facilitated communication generates results that can last a lifetime. When people of different generations sit together and share their views and opinions of other generations in a respectful way, it builds understanding, grows relationships, and strengthens your workplace culture. That’s a big win!

Support sharing ideas, information, and knowledge. Workplaces that do this create a culture of caring, trust, and positive energy. People are much more likely to open up when they know that top management encourages this.

Leaders everywhere should be ready to embrace the differences in their employees and connect the generations within their workplaces. With widespread respect for others and the support of an open and positive company culture behind them, these are the individuals who will take the cleaning industry into the future. 

Check out Scott Lesnick’s education session—Cleaning Leadership in 2021 and Beyond: Attracting, Engaging & Retaining 5 Generationsat ISSA Show North America 2021. Watch a preview of his session here.

Posted On October 28, 2021

Scott Lesnick

Scott Lesnick is a consultant, author, and global keynote speaker who is passionate about professional growth, leadership, and generational inclusion. He can be reached at [email protected].

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