The best working environments are those which are multi-generational. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Every generation has its blind spots.
By having a multi-generational workforce these blind spots can be avoided to a large degree. A clear example is the issue of technology. The young bulls (of whichever gender) want to have technology, technology, and more technology. The older bulls (of either gender) can put a quash on making the company technology based for technology's sake. This vital tension means that essential technology will be implemented, but non-essential technology will not...at least ideally.
2. Each generation appeals to a different set of customers.
Some people want to do business with the young hotshot, while others want the greybeard. This is just human nature. By having a workforce which is predominantly one generation, businesses can miss out on some customers.
3. It is better legally.
If there are people of every generation at all levels of your company, a discrimination suit by someone you've had to let go is much less likely to go anywhere. After all, how can an elder worker claim you're discriminating against older workers if two of them are in upper-management, with other scattered throughout the company.
4. It allows each generation to safely shine.
In my experience, younger workers are more likely to take risks that can benefit the company if there is a safety net of older workers to catch them if they fall. Conversely, older workers can rapidly fall behind the times and be beat by competitors if they don't keep up. A multi-generational workforce lets each generation do what they do best, without a fear that something will be missed. This leads to greater creativity and a better flow of ideas within the company.
The multi-generational workforce can be a real challenge, especially if each generation is vying for the most recognition. A good manager will utilize the tension rather than fear it or try to gloss it over. The most important thing is for the younger generations to value the experience and wisdom of the older generations, and the older generations to value the skills and innovation of the younger generations. So long as everyone operates with mutual listening and respect, the multi-generational workforce will kick butt over a workforce that is predominant in one generational demographic.
John Heckers is President of Heckers Development Group, LTD, an executive coaching and consulting firm based in Denver, Colorado.