Intergenerational Teams - Four Observations
by Martin Hönle
The boxes and labels – over the last two decades we all have been put into boxes and labeled: the silent generation, boomers, Gen X,Y,Z. When I first heard about Gen X, I thought where do we go after Gen Y and Z? Now there is the Last Generation as a label and it does not seem a very helpful one. Most of it is opinion, click baiting, marketing talk and stereotypes. On a number of occasions we had to work through these partly self-imposed restrictions to meet each other and then team work became very exciting and productive.
Up or down, on or off - it makes a huge difference whether we entered our professional lives during an economic boom with a large choice of jobs and opportunities or during a downturn with a lot of insecurity. People who start their careers during a boom cycle have much more confidence and higher demands. We can see this in the current economic climate here in Germany. If someone finished their university course online during the pandemic, she will find it easy to work from home. Older people might rather pick up the phone and talk to someone, rather than send an email. Figuring out how to communicate ‘across ages’ is crucial.
Masters – if you are a master violin maker, your skills will have grown over many years and they will grow and be refined every day. The master might take on an apprentice and teach and pass on her skills with pride and with the goal that the apprentice will be even better at the craft the than he is. Hardly any of us live and work in such a traditional craft environment, in which knowledge and wisdom is passed on the one generation to the next. Digitals natives have the skills for the digital world that evolves in front of us. Do we all have the skills to use these tools wisely, so we can pass them on?
From Gen Z to Gen C – amongst many other topics, two big areas are now developing their own dynamics: climate change and artificial intelligence – both come with very big risks and therefore also big opportunities attached. My parents’ generation grew up while their parents’ generation obliterated the world around them. After WW2 a whole generation spent their lives rebuilding and regenerating. They did well and many of us have benefited from that. GenZ have their work cut out for them – I think - and their helicopter parents might not be able to help. They will need the Courage to turn themselves into Gen C.