Mixing the old with the new

Most businesses benefit from employing people of different ages and levels of experience. With a bit of planning you can create a workplace where younger employees energise their older colleagues, who are in turn motivated to share their knowledge with more recent starters.

Much is made of the generation gap in the workplace and it is true that people entering work now have very different expectations from someone whose first taste of the working world happened in the last century.

But it is also true that by recognising the best aspects of these different expectations, you can avoid misunderstandings and even increase efficiency.


Removing techno-fear

One of the most difficult aspects of management is encouraging the people who work for you to embrace new ways of working, which usually involves technology. Older staff can be resistant to change where they feel that the way they do things is fine, whereas the current generation has grown up surrounded by technology and is often described as ‘digital-native’.

In most cases, new employees will work closely with other relative newcomers. But to encourage changes to work practices it is worth considering mixing the youngest with the oldest so the former can understand why some traditional practices are still important and the latter can see first-hand how new systems can make them more efficient.

Once a strong relationship is formed, junior staff can help their more experienced colleagues keep up with new technologies.


The wisdom of age

Millennials have been raised in a society where admitting that you have a problem and seeking help is much more acceptable than was the case even 20 years ago. However, they may also present a confident image to hide doubts about their ability to do their job.

The phrase ‘fake it till you make it’ has encouraged many people to believe that by convincing themselves they can do something they will be able to do it. However, this approach only gets you so far and it is important for younger staff to have someone to turn to for guidance.

Experienced staff can help junior staff with issues on a confidential basis, which could otherwise spiral out of control.


Taking a chance

Young people bring a different approach and style to the workplace, which can be invigorating. The closer workers get to retirement the more risk averse they become and in owner-manager businesses this can become an aversion to loss that prevents the business from changing with the times.

A new recruit might not necessarily be earmarked as someone who could end up running or even owning the business, but they could bring with them ideas that drive it forward at a crucial period.

It is therefore vital to encourage mutual respect between experienced and less experienced staff and recognition that everyone has something to contribute and something to learn. This requires some humility from the more experienced and confidence and patience from the less experienced, but the potential rewards are worth the effort.