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Bridging the generation gap

Australians are living longer and retiring later. By 2023 the official retirement age will be 67, meaning more and more businesses will have multiple generations working together. Responsibility and transfer of knowledge, skills and experience from the older generation to the next is taking longer.

Let’s take a family farming business for example. Let’s say you have grandfather (of the traditionalist generation) in his 70s pottering around on the farm, Dad is in his 50s (a baby boomer) and is still steering the business, while his son in his 30s (Gen X) is working alongside him. There’s a younger son in his 20s (Gen Y) who still lives at home and the Gen X has a couple of kids (Gen Z) who help out on weekends.

So, what happens when a multiple generation business like this decides to undertake succession planning? One word. Conflict. Unless each generation:

  • takes time to appreciate each other,
  • recognises where the gaps are, and
  • takes steps to bridge the gaps.

Our shared experiences, particularly those of our youth – like what kind of books, movies or music influenced us, what major political or economic events happened or what technological advances have occurred, tend to unite and shape a generation.

There are two key things we encourage our clients to consider when it comes to generation gaps:

  1. They’re not going to “grow out of it”. Older generations often think the young ones will grow up to be just like them…but you didn’t grow up to be just like your parents did you? It’s not a phase. Generational characteristics aren’t just a stage they will outgrow as they age. The younger generation’s focus on flexibility and access to information are likely to continue to be priorities.
  2. It’s not wrong, it’s just different. Gaps need to be bridged from both sides. Take time to appreciate the differences and strengths of each generational group and look for how these characteristics can be harnessed for the greater good of the business or family farm.

If you are working with different generations take time to appreciate what makes them tick. For example generations Y and Z tend to embrace change. So provide variety and different experiences in their day-to-day work roles. Meanwhile baby boomers expect people to work regular hours, so communicate clearly if you are starting later or leaving early.

There are great benefits of having a generation blend in your team. If you are looking for ways to bridge the gap, we recommend placing emphasis on the traits and standards that you agree on. Take time as a team or family unit to develop a set of agreed values and use that as a platform for decision making and work styles.

If you’d like to find out more about team building sessions run by BMO, contact us on 4662 3722.

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Megan James

About the author

After growing up on a cotton and grain property near Dalby, Megan went on to complete her Bachelor of Business, and spent more than 12 years in Brisbane and Newcastle working in public relations and communications roles in Govt-owned, private and consulting businesses across a range of industries including energy, health, property development and charity before returning ‘home’ to Dalby. READ MORE

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