A new survey reveals baby boomers are the least popular generation that employees want to work with, although experts say start-ups should disregard age if someone is the right cultural fit for their business.
Leadership Management Australasia recently surveyed 774 professionals about their views on working with other generations.
According to the survey, only 4% of Generation X and Generation Y staff most wanted to work with baby boomers, preferring their own generations at 57% and 53% respectively.
Only 17% of baby boomers want to work with staff their own age, while 40% want to work with members of Generation X.
The survey suggests that a lack of respect and understanding, and failing to recognise the needs of other generations, are key reasons for the difficult and ineffective relationships between generations.
LMA executive chairman Grant Sexton says the findings are in stark contrast to the long-held view that Generation Y poses the most problems in the workplace.
“If you believe that Generation Y is the unsolvable challenge when it comes to managing a workforce, think again. Baby boomers are now the challenge,” he says.
Sexton says the challenge for employers is to better understand what drives effective or ineffective generational relationships.
“Gone are the days when the challenges of fulfilling the needs of different groups can simply be dismissed as one particular generation just being difficult or demanding,” he says.
“Understanding the needs, expectations and motivations of a given generation could be the difference between keeping and losing some of your best people in the long run.”
But with regard to recruitment, Sexton says there should be an emphasis on finding the right cultural fit for the company, regardless of someone’s age.
“From an employer’s point of view, they need to ensure the person they’re interviewing is able to work with, and value, the attributes and qualities the different generations provide,” he says.
Sexton doesn’t believe companies should feel obliged to meet certain quotas with regard to employing people of different ages, but says new businesses should be more open to the idea.
According to Sexton, a lot of young businesses are often hesitant to take on older workers due to their inclination to resist new technologies and innovations.
“They need to learn to value what baby boomers have to contribute and what valuable assets they can bring to the organisation, such as experience,” he says.
Allison Baker, co-founder of niche job site HireMeUp, regards the 20-year age gap between her and her business partner Fiona Anson as an asset to the business.
“Where our age difference does come into play is we both bring different skills and experiences to the company that makes for really well-rounded business plans and strategies,” Baker says.
“I think the biggest battles we ever have are over newsletter styles and colour palette preferences.”