Multi-Generational Workplace


by Ryan McManigal

The Successful Multi-Generational Workplace is all About Strengthening Common Ground—and Bridging the Gaps

The generation gap is a real thing. Through the decades, different age-related influences and preferences have shaped what people value and desire—and impacted what they view as a great place to work.

With four generations of employees, each raised to expect different things from leadership, mentoring and work/life balance, it’s not surprising that there can be misunderstanding and resentment in the workplace. The most successful companies recognize these different comfort levels and expectations and use them to inform workplace design and/or location to help employees feel at home and be productive both individually and collectively.

In general, today’s workers range in age from their 20s to 60s and are grouped as follows: Veterans (b. 1920-1942), Baby Boomers (b. 1943-1960), Generation X (b. 1961-1979), and Millennials (or Generation Y, b. 1980-2000). Historically, Veterans have equated work with duty, hierarchy, large corner offices and longevity symbols like gold watches. For Boomers, it’s a little less hierarchy, a little more “feel good” achievement. For Generation Xers, work is more a means to an end (i.e., work to live). With tech-cozy Millennials, work signifies collaboration, community and bettering the world.

Fortunately, despite generational differences, there’s also common ground that can be strengthened and clear opportunities where gaps can be reduced

Fortunately, despite generational differences, there’s also common ground that can be strengthened and clear opportunities where gaps can be reduced. A 2008 study by Gensler, for example, found all four generations value meaningful work, collaboration and learning; however, there are “significant expectation and capability gaps that create division” when it comes to technology and flexibility.

To have a successful workplace, consider ways to bolster the first three areas and create bridges between the generations for the last two. By doing so, you’ll build a culture that breaks down social barriers and nurtures a true sense of community across ages and mindsets. The big payoff? Transferring tribal knowledge and encouraging collaboration that benefits your company and everyone onboard. Think older workers passing down wisdom and experience to younger workers, and younger workers helping older workers embrace technology and develop an appreciation for flexible work hours and location.

Here are some helpful “lenses” for workplace strategy and design:  

  • Purpose-Driven Work. Incorporate features that reflect your company’s commitment to transparency, visibility or other core values. One value of KBS tenant The Nutro Company is that pets make the world a better place. The pet food maker demonstrates this value by encouraging associates to bring their dogs to work, calling the animals “wonderful additions to our workspace, especially when . . . you see a couple dogs playing with each other or ‘taste testing’ one of our new products.”
  • Mentor Me. Create social or informal meeting places for workers of all levels and ages to have spontaneous, genuine connection. Yesterday’s breakroom or watercooler hub is today’s Zumba class, juice bar or hip eating space. Caddo Café, “the heart of the office” for KBS tenant Bridgeway Software is where Bridgeway clients, business partners and employees gather over fresh-brewed coffee, delicious lunches or fruit-infused water for organic conversations and meetings of the mind.
  • Pick Your Spot. Build a variety of workspaces—large to small, open versus private, formal versus informal—whose purpose, tools and amenities are clearly identified. This eliminates confusion and sets expectation for usage, so people can choose the physical and psychological space they need to get creative or recharge. From its multi-purpose ground floor to contemporary spec suites, KBS property 3811 Turtle Creek is not only “Dallas’ preeminent address and location” but a highly diverse work place. In addition to office space, a newly renovated lobby, gym and deli—along with a tenant wine bar, game room and outdoor patios—invite people to work alone, collaborate, exercise and socialize.
  • Blurred Lines. For some companies, locating in a work-live-play environment means offering workers anything their hearts desire. By inviting flow between work and personal life, these companies foster social bonds that support strong, productive work relationships. Mixed-use developments like KBS’s Park Place Village in Leawood, Kansas, offers tenants, such as anchor AMC Theatres the ability to attract and retain top employees through easy access to boutique shops, upscale restaurants, cafes, parking garages and residential buildings—all within walking distance of work.

 

Employee engagement affects your business’s bottom line. So, it’s important to create a work environment that makes EVERYONE—regardless of age or mindset—feel welcome and appreciated. To maximize worker happiness and productivity, design a workplace that nurtures community while providing a variety of spaces that satisfy individual needs. You’ll not only attract and retain top talent, but reap the rewards that come with an inclusive workforce. And turn generational diversity into a business asset.

 

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Ryan McManigal is a vice president and asset manager for KBS responsible  for over three million square feet of office space in Dallas, Texas.  Ryan also assists in identifying and underwriting new acquisitions for KBS in the south central region of the U.S.