How to Effectively Manage a Cross-Generational Team

How to Effectively Manage a Cross-Generational Team

We are seeing something unprecedented in U.S. companies—five generations working together. No more than 30 years ago, the country’s workforce consisted largely of people retiring around the age of 60. But today’s healthy 60-year-olds are now planning to work into their mid-to-late 70s.

Here is a breakdown of the five generations working together at the moment:

The Greatest Generation - Born before 1946
Baby Boomers - Born between 1946-1964
Generation X - Born between 1965-1976
Millennials - Born between 1977-1997
Generation 2020ers - Born after 1997

These vast age differences in the workplace can cause friction and even lead to employee turnover. Here, we discuss strategies to help the small business owner manage cross-generational teams.

Forget Stereotypes

People do not like to be pigeonholed. And while the some Millennials may fit the authority-hating, skinny-jeans-wearing, always-on-their-phones stereotype, not everyone from that generation will act the same. That also goes for those from the Greatest Generation, known for their hard work and selflessness, or Generation Xers, who are famous for being aloof and independent.

Assumptions breed resentment, so try not to stereotype the behaviors of your employees. Instead, take each team member aside and talk with them about their personal motivations in the workplace. What methods of communication best works for them? Where do they see their career headed in the next five-to-ten years? What do they value most about their job?

Armed with their responses, consider tailoring job responsibilities to each person’s motivations. As the boss, this effort will show that you’ve taken the time to invest in each person’s career growth—regardless of their generation’s label.

Consider Flexible Perks

Try to create tailored perks based on the feedback you receive. You may consider company-sponsored happy hours for some employees, or flexible work hours that don’t require having to ping HR every time someone leaves early. Additional attractive perks could include gym memberships, bike sharing programs and family membership discounts to local attractions .

Encourage Collaboration

Instead of lumping your employees based on their generation, try to mix it up by putting together a 35-year-old, a 19-year-old, and a 60-year-old on the same team. Mixed-aged teams can help breed collaboration in your organization and encourage tolerance for different ways of thinking.

Extend your dedication to collaboration by asking all employees to regularly give feedback to you and your management team. Try to be as transparent as possible in your plans for the company and ask for comments frequently.

Another great way to collaborate in a multigenerational team is to institute reverse mentorships. Ask younger employees to mentor older ones on skills in which they’re proficient, and vice versa.

Touch base often

Communication is key when working with a cross-generational team. Send out regular, anonymous surveys to see how everyone in your company is feeling about the workplace. Address problems immediately—this will show each person that they are a valued member of your organization.

Interested in learning more? Check out these great resources:

Leading a Multigenerational Workforce - AARP

Engaging a Multi-Generational Workforce: Practical Advice for Government Managers - IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Managing Cross-Generational Teams - National Seminars Training (webinar)

Katie Morell

About the Author


San Francisco-based, writes about business, travel, social justice and human interest topics. Contributes to Fast Company, Hemispheres, The Guardian, Consumers Digest, OPEN Forum, BBC Travel & others.

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