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Multigenerational Teams and Success?

We are a medium-sized company characterised by a multinational workforce. We employ people from four generations, with older and newer generations. We encourage dialogue and collaboration; in the belief that, in addition to gender and ethnic diversity, age diversity is critical to our success.

We are proud of our committed and motivated employees. After all, they are the driving force behind the digitisation of the entire independent automotive aftermarket (IAM). They collaborate successfully worldwide in multinational teams across generations. All of them pursue a common goal: to digitise the entire IAM and to shape its future.

Like other companies, our four-generation workforce poses special challenges to optimise cooperation. What distinguishes the older from the younger? What makes them tick at work and in their private lives? What can the older learn from the younger and the younger from the older?

A bit of history

First things first. Our organisation has representations from four generations, with an average age of 41 globally. Therefore, in the following we focus on the older and the younger. By older, we mean the baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. By younger, we mean Generation Y, the Millennials, born between 1980 and 1995.

Those in Germany surviving the Second World War contributed significantly to economic recovery. They are often characterized as being very professionally driven, sometimes at the expense of their personal lives. This is also particularly gendered, where men are seen as “workaholics”, driven to become managers and younger generations often dub them as “old white men”.

Millennials grew up in times of globalisation with the internet and computers. They are familiar with digitisation. They are usually connected to others both personally and digitally. This generation wants their jobs to be meaningful, fun and varied. They also appreciate flat hierarchies as well as team and project work. According to their ideas, flexible working hours go hand in hand with a good work-life balance.

Leading multigenerational teams

Multigenerational teams can be both, a stumbling block and a guarantee of success, depending on how they’re managed. When people of different ages work together, they bring diverse perspectives and skills, which can lead to innovative ideas and better problem-solving. However, if not managed well, conflicts may arise due to differences in communication styles or work approaches. For example, a team composed of experienced seniors and young newcomers may struggle initially due to generation gaps. Yet, with effective leadership and communication, they can harness the strengths of each age group, resulting in increased creativity and productivity.

Reflections from the TecAlliance team

“I have a mixed-age team. In a recent internal workshop, we had the chance to reflect on what each of us has to offer to the others in the team”, explains Pia Harbo, Commercial Business Owner (BeNeLux, Nordics & Baltic). “E.g. I work already long in my job and have a lot of experience and expertise that the younger team members are keen to build as well. On the other side, my younger team members are very curious and unprejudiced and for me it’s a great opportunity to learn from them. Through this workshop we have not only increased the appreciation for each other’s age but also strengthened our team spirit,” Pia continues.

It is the mix of generations that creates the synergies. When we talk about diversity, we don’t just mean gender and ethnicity, but also age diversity.

Pia Harbo, CBO

At TecAlliance, everyone is welcome. It is important to us to work well together in multinational and mixed-age teams worldwide. That we have the freedom to work creatively, self-responsibly, result- and customer-oriented, and that we have fun doing it. Despite all this, conflicts can also arise due to the age difference.

Learning from one another to grow together

Our experience shows that fruitful cooperation between the generations occurs when they learn from each other and combine their strengths. Baby boomers often have years of experience in the profession and can provide younger employees with valuable insights and practical knowledge. They also have many skills that they can pass on to younger generations, such as practical skills, historical perspectives and lifelong learning curves.

Younger employees, on the other hand, can shine with fresh ideas and new technologies that help the company become more innovative. They often bring new perspectives and a different approach to problems that can move the organisation forward.

It is important that both generations recognise the respect and appreciation of each other and that leaders challenge and encourage dialogue and collaboration. Through training and workshops, both generations can learn more about each other’s strengths and challenges to develop a better understanding of each other.

Successful collaboration can be complemented by flexible working models where older and younger employees work part-time and perhaps from home. In this way, everyone can contribute their strengths to the company’s performance.

Each generation has its own view of work. A fruitful interaction necessarily requires that the generations are willing to communicate with each other and develop understanding for each other.

We promote an appreciative corporate culture, work responsibly, and treat each other with respect. Independent work and the competent support of dynamic, mixed-age teams go hand in hand for us.
Mobile or hybrid working, working in a home office, on the road or on site are part of our everyday working life. In this way, each generation can individually balance work and private life.

We are convinced that age diversity inspires the cooperation of our multinational teams worldwide. We believe in a diverse and inclusive work environment and in giving our employees fair and equitable opportunities to reach their full potential.

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