4 min read

Multiple Generations: Better Together

Apr 6, 2023 6:30:00 AM

Multiple Generations

My longtime colleague Brad Serf often says, “I’ve told myself I would never be the old guy unable to adapt, wary of change, and pessimistic about the outcome; who wants to be around that guy?” I share his aspiration.

But finding the right balance can be difficult. How can I be a voice of experience, yet not become “that guy”?

In the workplace, I find there is also the natural order of things. The younger generation is raring to go, they are ready for the older generation to get out of their way. Meanwhile, the older have finally found their stride, likely performing with the highest confidence and have no intention of getting out of the way. How do these reconcile? How can multiple generations function effectively in an organization? Not just that, but how can they be better together?

The Positive Impact

We’ve all heard about the positive impact that diversity has on an organization – diversity of age included. It brings diversity of perspectives, opportunities for collaboration, and mentorship opportunities, just to name a few. When people of different ages work together, they bring their unique perspectives that have been shaped by their experiences and backgrounds which leads to more creative problem-solving.

I’ve seen this first-hand on my team more times than I can count. As I prepare to celebrate my 20th anniversary with Gibson later this year (and my 34th year in the P&C insurance industry), I like to think I bring a level of wisdom and guidance to my team. Yet I’ve learned just as much from my teammates who have only been with Gibson for a year or two. They challenge my thinking. They ask why we do things the way we do. They bring new ideas that never would have crossed my mind.

As a result, we’ve gotten more creative at solving problems together as a team. We’ve seen the value we can drive when we all share our unique perspectives – as opposed to me trying to deliver all the answers for my team.

The Challenges

Collaborating across multiple generations is not without its challenges. Different generations have different communication styles, values, and expectations. Whereas I may be accustomed to picking up the phone and calling, someone else may prefer a text instead.

Not only that but adapting to new technology presents a challenge as well. Technology is evolving rapidly, and younger generations are typically more comfortable with new technologies than older generations.

Shortly after I joined Gibson, I remember one of the senior producers telling me he knew where all the payphones were in Elkhart County so he could call the office. For the record, we had cell phones back then, but they were phones only (no email, apps, or web browsing). In less than 20 years, not only are payphones now obsolete, but new technologies like ChatGPT are forcing us to constantly re-evaluate how we work.

We need the younger generations to continue to push us to change, show us how to adapt and be comfortable with new technology, and work together to evolve with the times.

Enhancing Your Multi-Generational Workforce

What can your organization do to improve effectiveness and collaboration among generations?

  • Promote Inclusivity and Respect: Create a workplace culture that values and respects employees of all ages. Encourage open communication and dialogue, and avoid age-based stereotypes or discrimination.
  • Offer Training and Development Opportunities: Provide training and development opportunities that cater to the different learning styles and needs of different generations. This can help ensure that all employees have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their roles.
  • Foster Collaboration and Mentorship: Encourage collaboration and mentorship opportunities between employees of different generations. This can help transfer knowledge, skills, and experience across generations and promote a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture.
  • Offer Flexibility: Consider offering flexible work arrangements that cater to the different work-life balance needs of different generations. This can include remote work options, flexible scheduling, or part-time arrangements.
  • Embrace Technology: Embrace new technologies and tools that can help bridge the knowledge gap between different generations. Offer training and support to help older workers adapt to new technologies, and encourage younger workers to share their knowledge and expertise.
  • Celebrate Diversity: Embrace and celebrate the diversity of your multi-generational workforce. This can include celebrating cultural holidays, acknowledging the achievements of employees from different generations, and promoting diversity and inclusivity in your marketing and advertising.

Not only can these strategies help Brad and I avoid becoming the pessimistic, change-averse old guys – they can help everyone work better together, regardless of age. By recognizing and embracing generational differences, organizations can create a more inclusive, collaborative, and growth-minded multi-generational workforce.

Topics: Executive
Mark Wobbe

Written by Mark Wobbe

Mark is a principal at Gibson with responsibilities as a team leader and providing risk management and insurance services to business clients. He specializes in identifying, quantifying and bringing clarity around strategic, business, and hazard risk exposures. Utilizing the proactive sightline process, he and his team provide counsel and advice on complex business and people issues extending beyond the scope of a traditional insurance engagement. Mark is a a member of Gibson’s Board of Directors. Mark has extensive experience. His commercial underwriting career began in 1989 and progressed through several assignments with national insurance carriers. The combination of his years of underwriting, insurance company operations, and agency management experience give Mark a unique background and ability to develop comprehensive solutions for his clients. Prior to joining Gibson in 2003, Mark was senior underwriter for the technology practice at Chubb Insurance Company underwriting errors & omissions coverage and international programs for clients in the information technology and telecommunications sectors. Read Mark's Full Bio