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Help Us Gen Z and Boomers, You’re Our Only Hope…

3 Mins read

In today’s evolving workforce, understanding, and bridging the generational divide between Generation Z (Gen Z) and Baby Boomers is essential for organizational success. Despite contrasting upbringings and beliefs, fostering collaboration, and leveraging each generation’s strengths can drive innovation and productivity. Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers transformative solutions by enhancing soft skills development, facilitating personalized performance feedback, and diagnosing and strengthening organizational culture. By using AI to bridge generational gaps, organizations can cultivate positive workplace environments, improve employee retention, and ultimately foster long-term success in a diverse and dynamic workforce.

Obi-Wan Kenobi strikes again…

It is all a matter of perspective. Obi-Wan Kenobi taught us about perspective and the importance of understanding different points of view in Star Wars- Episode IV. That lesson is so important when you start to hear about the disagreements between Generation Z and Boomers in the workplace.

From a big picture view, Gen Z and Boomers could not have had a more contrasting upbringing. Baby Boomers were born into an era characterized by a robust manufacturing sector and affordable housing. A Boomer’s parents’ identity often revolved around one’s career, possessions, and home life. Their parents had complete job security, were loyal to their employers and had lifelong employment with a single company that took care of them, with a pension.

Conversely, Gen Z entered a transformed economy centered on services. Many saw their parents grapple with home foreclosures due to unaffordable subprime loans and weathered job losses amid the 2000 and 2008 recessions. Which in an ironic twist of fate, caused housing to be unaffordable and out of reach for Generation Z. They are the first generation of a digitally native lifestyle since they grew up with the internet. The labor market they join is extremely competitive, so Gen Z often fields multiple job offers, granting them the luxury of choosing roles that align with personal priorities.

As Gen Z enters the workforce, clashes emerge between established beliefs and emerging expectations. Fostering collaboration between Gen Z and Baby Boomers is crucial for leveraging their collective strengths and experiences in today’s evolving workforce, but it will require focusing on similarities and some magic from AI. Here are three notable examples:

#1 Soft Skills

Leadership skills transcend generational differences and effective leadership hinges on strong soft skills, particularly the ability to motivate and inspire team members. AI applications can play a pivotal role by offering recommendations, support, and guidance in areas where a leader may need enhancement in soft skills.

For instance, a leader may inadvertently cancel 1:1 meetings with an employee due to urgent matters, unknowingly signaling that they lack value. Over time, this behavior can prompt the employee to seek other employment opportunities. AI applications can intervene by providing alerts, suggesting strategies to address the issue, and even helping efforts to repair any strained relationships that may have resulted.

Conversely, Gen Z can use artificial intelligence (AI) for soft skills development, particularly in navigating interpersonal conflicts and resolving professional differences. By using AI tools, such as chatbot applications, Gen Z individuals can practice and refine their communication skills in a safe and supportive environment. This allows them to address and resolve conflicts respectfully, which is appreciated by Boomers.

Both generations can use AI in the workplace for soft skills development, helping them navigate emotionally challenging conversations with empathy and professionalism, ultimately improving relationships between Gen Z and Boomers in the workplace.

#2 Performance Feedback

Secondly, I have yet to meet someone that does not like a good pat on the back and sincere recognition from a manager for doing an excellent job. In a hybrid or remote work environment, providing meaningful recognition and feedback can be challenging, especially for Boomers who may struggle with these dynamics.

AI offers a solution by enabling leaders to create personalized performance plans quickly and effectively for each team member. AI can curate bespoke performance plans tailored to individual needs, allowing leaders to provide relevant feedback within minutes of a situation arising. This proactive approach to feedback fosters trust, particularly with Gen Z employees, who value transparent and personalized interactions.

By consistently delivering tailored feedback, leaders can accumulate trust “points” with their employees, demonstrating genuine care for their growth and success. Since feedback is tailored for each employee, they will take the feedback to heart and know it is coming from someone who cares about their growth and wants them to succeed, not an evil corporate Boomer manager looking to squeeze more out of them.

#3 Culture

Many Gen Z employees are looking to work at culture-first organizations, where leadership adheres to clear values in their operations. AI can provide an “MRI of an organization,” pinpointing cultural issues at every level of an organization. This serves as a valuable tool for assessing and strengthening organizational culture, particularly in meeting the expectations of Gen Z employees who prioritize working for mission-driven and values-based companies. By using AI to diagnose cultural issues and implement targeted interventions, organizations can cultivate a positive workplace environment, improve employee retention, and ultimately foster long-term success.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the clashes between Gen Z and Baby Boomers in the workplace highlight the significance of perspective and the need for collaboration. Despite their differing upbringings and beliefs, fostering understanding and leveraging each generation’s strengths are essential for organizational success. Incorporating AI into workplace practices not only addresses the unique needs of different generations but also promotes a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration, ultimately driving long-term success and cohesion in diverse work environments.

Seckin Secilmis is the Founder and CEO of 5fn.

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