A Toolkit for Bringing Generations Together in the Workplace

BY Michael Stahl | July 21, 2022

When it comes to generational stereotypes in workplace culture, unfortunately, there’s something for everyone. They go like this: Boomers are set in their ways and don’t do tech (actually, not so), while Millennials are the “participation trophy” generation, in need of constant praise (it’s more complicated than that). The youngest generation in the workforce today, Gen Z, has already been labeled too. They’re supposedly hooked on technology and too quick to question everyone else’s values (from their perspective, there’s no time to lose).

Like all stereotypes, those of the ageist variety are not only off-base, if they’re brought into the workplace they can undermine a company’s team spirit. Yet age discrimination remains an under-discussed aspect of the workplace conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This presents an opportunity for positive change, since age-inclusive teams have been shown to have advantages in terms of innovation and stability.

A fresh idea for fostering teamwork among generations is the intergenerational employee-resource group (ERG). While ERGs have long been established to provide support and community for members of marginalized groups and their allies, an ERG that mixes the generations offers a new dynamic. To help employers form and foster such groups, AARP has crafted an Intergenerational ERG Toolkit to bring workers together to confront ageist stereotypes and create new bonds among workers of different generations and life experiences.

“There are as many as five generations in the workforce now and, given demographic trends of increased longevity and lower birth rates, it’s likely that the workforce is going to remain multi-generationally diverse for the foreseeable future,” said Heather Tinsley-Fix, senior advisor of financial resilience at AARP. “One of the ways leaders can add age to their DEI thinking and be more age inclusive is to encourage generations to interact with each other, rather than remain in silos.”

When multi-generational workers get to know each other better, ageist thinking–which can have a range of negative effects on workers, including an erosion of self-confidence–will likely dissipate. Stereotypes are attached to both young and experienced workers, and they’re often erroneously believed by the very employees they target.

How Assumptions Can Be Contagious

The downloadable, 104-page toolkit provides a host of insights

“[W]hat might really matter at work are not actual differences between generations, but people’s beliefs that these differences exist,” said Harvard Business Review in a 2019 story about the effects generational differences have on organizations. “These beliefs can get in the way of how people collaborate with their colleagues, and have troubling implications for how we people are managed and trained.”

“Young people think, ‘I’m being looked at as flighty or I want a medal all the time because I’m a Millennial,’” Tinsley-Fix said. “Then you survey their colleagues and they don’t think that way of them. Older workers think, ‘They probably think I’m slow and I’m tech-illiterate,’ and then you ask the younger co-workers and they don’t think that.”

Once those ageist stereotypes that may exist in a company are broken down, thanks to greater interactivity between workers of multiple generations, a more inclusive culture can be hatched. And when organizations have multi-generational workers safely and comfortably engaging with each other, Tinsley-Fix said, “you can really unleash the power of this mix of ages.”

“For a multigenerational workforce and consumer base,” Tinsley-Fix continued, “that might mean achieving successful mentoring and knowledge transfer, or capturing the $8.3 trillion 50-plus market.” (Statistics like those might help explain why intergenerational ERGs are catching on in corporations.)

The Intergenerational ERG Toolkit leverages research conducted over several years by AARP, with partners including the World Economic Forum and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development contributing data and insights. The result is a highly informative publication, with background supporting age-diversification company benefits, step-by-step instructions on how to build intergenerational ERGs–or enhance those perhaps already established in a company–and tips for optimizing their effectiveness.

The Benefits for Corporations

Tinsley-Fix believes the toolkit, which she helped produce, is coming at just the right time for corporations seeking solutions to many contemporary issues. DEI efforts focused particularly on age can prove fruitful. “The global skills shortage, compounded by a relentless war for talent, are growing threats to an organization’s business continuity,” Tinsley-Fix said. “It can be easy for business leaders to fall into survival mode and view DEI initiatives as non-essential investments. However, studies show an age-inclusive workforce reduces turnover, increases profitability and boosts productivity.”

She points to a section in the toolkit outlining why a “future-forward” approach is critical in building intergenerational ERGs. There’s also a test leaders can take to see whether or not they’ve adopted such a disposition. One page provides a list of actions leaders can take to make sure they’re thinking in a “future-forward” manner, while trusting the employees who are building out an intergenerational ERG. Leaders should ask for honest feedback, the toolkit says, and encourage workers to have both “fixed and growth mindsets.” Among other steps, leaders should also ask for help when needed and be truly willing to learn from others, even if that means altering “what you think and how you view your surroundings.”

The same section features a chart illustrating the ways companies have pursued goal achievement through ERGs in the past versus what a future-forward leadership group might consider. For example, in the past, ERGs may have “led” other workers, but today and going forward they should “empower” their colleagues. Beforehand, there may have been “mentor matching” established by ERGs; in the future, they should perhaps “sponsor success.” And instead of “measuring employee engagement,” looking ahead, ERGs should “welcome workplace wellness.”

Mentoring Across Generations

Heather Tinsley-Fix, senior advisor of financial resilience at AARP(Photo courtesy of AARP)

Companies have historically used ERGs to solve certain business challenges, such as expanding into a new market. But these teams can make many different kinds of contributions and, as Tinsley-Fix said, in an intergenerational setting they can profoundly spur what she calls “bi-directional mentoring.”

“ERGs can enable those connections between generations so that older workers can learn from younger workers,” Tinsley-Fix said, “and younger workers can be mentored in, among other things, the soft skills and professionalism that older workers have established over longer stretches of time.”

Even companies that already have age-focused DEI initiatives underway can expand their methods. If there are already-established young professional ERGs as well as experienced employee ERGs in an organization, the AARP publication explains how to get them working together. They can be “expanded, with a broader umbrella that includes all employees interested in building an age-inclusive workplace–regardless of their age or generation,” according to the toolkit. “The work challenges and professional development experiences can be similar no matter the employee’s, age so that the same ERG support network can benefit all.”

While other areas of consideration may garner greater attention in DEI thinking on the part of leaders, there are a host of good reasons to embrace age diversity and inclusion as well. It offers its own share of company benefits, and the policies derived from a successfully age-integrated company will help sustain worker output and other positive outcomes long into the future.

“Research tells us that the presence of older workers on teams in an inclusive environment will increase that team’s productivity,” Tinsley-Fix said. “It’ll increase the quality of their outputs. So intergenerational teams are a good thing for business–full stop.”

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner who sponsored this story, AARP.

Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at MichaelStahlWrites.com, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books.


Helping Employees Organize Their Lives Now for When They're Not Around Later

On the proverbial starting line of her new life, excitedly using wedding planning websites and apps, Abby Schneiderman started wondering about the finish line. Where were all the websites and apps and guides for end of life?That was the small beginning of what would eventually become Everplans, a platform that helps people get prepared for the unexpected. Schneiderman detailed the company’s story and pillars at From Day One’s conference in Atlanta. A tech entrepreneur, her curiosity wasn’t that out of the ordinary. She researched and found plenty of resources for having children, buying a home, financial planning, and retirement planning. But that’s where it ended. “There were no other life stages covered online,” she said. Schneiderman brought her findings to tech veteran Adam Seifer. “I said, who's helping people deal with death?” It’s interesting to note that not all big life stages happen for everyone. Not everyone gets married or has kids, but each person will face death.“Everybody has to deal with this one day,” she said, whether it’s for themselves or for their aging parents, but this is something we can’t avoid.”To fill the online gaps, Schneiderman and Seifer started writing content. Over 500 articles worth of content at first, which has grown into the thousands. It covers every conceivable end-of-life topic, such as how to write a will, what to wear to a funeral, and how to name a health care proxy. Everplans was born. They immediately saw the value of their work.“We started coming up very highly in Google searches for every article we were writing.”A New PerspectiveThen came hard, personal experience. Schneiderman’s 51-year-old brother was killed by a drunk driver. In an instant, everything changed for her and her family. Thankfully he had life insurance, but that was where the documents and pre-planning stopped. No will, no organization of his accounts, no funeral wishes. That’s when Everplans made a major pivot. Rather than only provide articles and resources, Schneiderman and Seifer wanted to do more. “We wanted to help people get a plan in place ahead of time, so that when the time does come or when an emergency strikes, families have access to what they need.”Today, Everplans is a technology platform that helps people to organize, store, share, and everything from wills to policies to health directives to online accounts up to date. To date, over 30 million have engaged their resources since we launched, and over 160,000 people have created “vaults” on the platform, with over 3 million pieces of information stored and shared.Abby Schneiderman, co-founder and co-CEO of Everplans, led the thought leadership spotlight in Atlanta (photo by Dustin Chambers for From Day One)The co-founders also wrote a book, In Case You Get Hit By a Bus: How to Organize Your Life Now for When You're Not Around Later, in the hopes of helping people be better prepared for what’s to come. That’s why Everplans has entered the benefits space—to help companies help employees get the peace of mind that comes with getting things in order. “There’s a major tie between personal productivity and workplace productivity,” Schneiderman said.  Speaking of full-time employees in the U.S., here are some statistics she reported: 65% feel anxious when critical information and documents are all over the place, 84% are less productive when they feel disorganized, and 86% are less stressed when they feel more organized. And Everplans aims to help remedy that. After creating an Everplans vault, you can upload documents and pertinent information, as well as designate “deputies” or loved ones who should have access to your vault now and after you die. Below are the four pillars Everplans recommends each person looks at when adding to their vaults. The platform also nudges you at regular intervals to make sure everything is up to date.Documents: Things like legal documents, wills, assets, power of attorney, advanced directives, and more. Since end-of-life documents like power of attorney can be hard for many people, Everplans give pointers on how to broach this topic with different people in your life. Insurance: Policies like life, health, auto, home, property, pet, disability, and more. Schneiderman explained that every year, billions of dollars go unclaimed because of policies family members don’t know about. Assets: This includes financial accounts and digital assets. Making sure that bank accounts, safe deposit box information, credit card accounts, 401k and other retirement accounts, and every other account are in the vault is vital for loved ones to be able to access them after you pass. At the very least, put in what the account is even if you don’t put usernames or passwords.  As far as digital assets go, did you know the average person has 240 passwords? Social media, cryptocurrency, cell phone, unlock computer code, email accounts, and just about everything else. Schneiderman said they did a study, and 65% of people keep track of passwords in their heads. She recommends using two password managers, one for work and one for personal. Leaving a Legacy: Think about the different types of things that matter to you that you want to pass down, Schneiderman said. Recipes, videos, photos, stories, and anything else you can think of that leave a legacy.  The great thing about putting your affairs in order is this: you can have peace of mind knowing that if anything does happen to you, your loved ones don’t have to scramble. They can access all of the needed information without searching for it or worrying they’ve missed something. That would make any employee sleep better at night.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Everplans, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

Carrie Snider | February 21, 2024

Embedding DEI in Grantmaking: From Vision to Action

Embracing our differences and lived experiences enhances innovation, creativity, decision-making, and better problem-solving. But it’s not always easy to turn aspirations into tangible actions. In a thought leadership spotlight session at From Day One’s Denver conference, Tanya Odom, director of equity and inclusion at the Walton Family Foundation, shared practical strategies and real-world examples of embedding DEI principles and practices into philanthropy, both internally and externally.Odom painted a vivid picture of the Walton Family Foundation’s legacy, tracing its roots to its founding by Sam Walton and Helen Walton in 1987. “We’ve been in the space of diversity, equity, and inclusion for over 25 years,” said Odom. In 2020, the foundation awarded $749.5 million in grants. “We actually fund in three very specific areas that are determined by the family, which are education, which has taken different pathways and ways of looking at it, but that’s been since the beginning. Another is the environment, more specifically oceans and sustainability. And the third is the home region, Bentonville, Arkansas, and Arkansas’ Mississippi Delta,” said Odom. “We infuse all of them with a sensibility about diversity, equity inclusion.” “Our framework centers around three key pillars: embed, align, and amplify,” said Odom. Through these pillars, the foundation aims not only to incorporate DEI principles into its own operations, but also to foster similar initiatives among its grantees and partners. This holistic approach reflects the foundation’s recognition of the interconnectedness of issues, and its commitment to driving systemic change. “It's not just about what we do internally,” she said. “It's about how we leverage our influence to effect change on a broader scale.”Navigating the Last Few YearsThe conversation turned towards the challenges faced during the pivotal summer of 2020, a period marked by widespread social unrest and calls for racial justice. Odom reflected on the intense global efforts during that time. “Many of us had never worked as hard as we did in the summer of 2020,” she said. “That summer and I would say the year after that. And I think there was a sense of people finally understanding what we did.”Tanya Odom of the Walton Family Foundation was interviewed by From Day One co-founder Steve Koepp during the thought leadership spotlightDespite the challenges, Odom recalled this period as a catalyst for change. “We’ve been saying this, this is not new. Odom mentions the curb-cut theory, an awareness that once you find a pathway to address some of these inequities, or structural issues, you usually find ways to address other issues. “So while the summer of 2020 was called a racial reckoning, in Europe, it was also often called a social reckoning. It just highlighted so many other things.”Leadership Buy-In and the Importance of CourageOdom underscored the importance of courage in leadership and the willingness to take bold action. This call for courageous leadership highlighted the need for organizations to confront difficult conversations and actively engage in the work of dismantling systemic barriers to equity.At the Foundation, Odom says, they held an interview with their board chair on the subject of diversity. “And that was very unusual. Our comms department actually got permission to have that go out onto social media. What was really important was that our board chair talked about how DEI connected to the thoughts and beliefs of Sam Walton. Sam Walton wasn't saying ‘diversity, equity and inclusion.’ But Sam Walton talked about access. So how do we connect it to the mission of the organization?”Philanthropy's Roadblocks and Future ChallengesDespite the foundation's commendable efforts, Odom acknowledged the roadblocks and challenges facing philanthropy in its quest for DEI integration. “Dr. King has a quote,” she said. “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances, economic injustice, which makes philanthropy necessary.”Odom remained optimistic about the future, emphasizing the importance of collective action and ongoing dialogue. “While the road ahead may be challenging,” she said, “I firmly believe that by working together, we can overcome these obstacles and create a more inclusive and equitable future for all.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, the Walton Family Foundation, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Cynthia Barnes has written about everything from art to zebras from more than 30 countries. She currently calls Denver home.

Cynthia Barnes | February 09, 2024

Getting Ahead of Attrition Through Career Equity and Recognition

In the age of hybrid work and digital transformation, companies face the challenge of meeting rising employee expectations despite strained profits. Aside from wages, how might companies ensure that their employees’ needs are being met?At From Day One’s recent Atlanta conference, Jeff Cates, CEO of Achievers and Kumari Williams, VP of belonging and diversity at Workday, discussed exactly this. According to research from Achievers, the number of people who are job searching in 2024 is going up by 10%. For most people, the number one consideration is wage, which makes sense given today’s cost of living and expenses.How do we solve the wage problem when most organizations are actually looking to reduce wage increases this year? Research shows that on average, in the U.S., employers are looking at wage increases of about 3.9% in 2024 compared to 4.4% last year.Emotional salary supports retention. Two-thirds of individuals reported that if they felt supported and connected at an organization, they would take that over a 30% increase in wage.This cultural environment fosters a strong sense of belonging, increasing the likelihood of individuals pursuing long-term careers within their organization. Belonging creates the difference between ‘I work at an organization’ versus ‘I’m connected; I have a career at this organization.’Creating a sense of belonging is ultimately what helps create the stickiness that can help offset the lure of wages. For Williams, belonging is an output of inclusivity—and building inclusive spaces and inclusive leaders are the cornerstone workplace belonging.“It’s even a KPI for our organization. And so at the highest level in the organization, we are focused on increasing belonging, not just maintaining it,” she said.Williams, left, and Cates, right, led a thought leadership spotlight titled “Getting Ahead of Attrition Through Career Equity and Recognition, Using HR Tech” (photo by Dustin Chambers for From Day One)So, how do you create an environment where people feel connected and fulfilled? At Achievers, equity and transparency are vital in creating employee-friendly talent practices. “Individuals that report a feeling of career equity are two times more likely to not job hunt,” Cates said.One key area where they dialed in on transparency was performance ratings, where workmates were free to share performance ratings as well as their ratings from a potential standpoint and how they could do better, he says.It’s time to shift the idea of recognition from a reward to a sustainable practice that nudges people forward. It’s not just about using money (but you can, in small doses), but about using recognition to drive behavior, Cates says. It’s also important to use data to draw relevant insights regarding employee performance and how recognition can further propel that.“It’s really when we think about recognition that’s not tied to the monetary that we can drive behavior—and if we are going to use monetary rewards, then it should be used in very small doses,” said Cates.When you think about all the things you can do that drive behavior, such as recognition, gamification, and things that create a sense of accomplishment, it’s important to note that even micro-nudging or micro-rewarding can add up to help build positive habits. By helping to create habits and drive behavior, you can really drive scalable impact on how people feel. By accomplishing smaller tasks and micro-rewarding, you help people achieve a sense of fulfillment and action.It also comes down to leadership accountability. “Oftentimes, we’re focused on the message at the top of our organizations and making sure that our executives are aware of what we're trying to drive,” said Williams, “and it just doesn't permeate the layers in the middle.”For Williams, being intentional about how you drive accountability among leaders in the middle of the organization is essential so that they can carry the work forward. Most of your employees’ experience is shaped by your middle managers, not the executives, she says.Staying competitive in the job market and reducing attrition is challenging, especially now that employees are increasingly focused on finding better wages. However, the one thing that employees do value more than higher wages is company culture, particularly a sense of belonging where they see a path forward career-wise, where they’re being recognized, and feel that they are seen and heard.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Achievers, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Keren's love for words saw her transition from a corporate employee into a freelance writer during the pandemic. When she is not at her desk whipping up compelling narratives and sipping on endless cups of coffee, you can find her curled up with a book, playing with her dog, or pottering about in the garden.

Keren Dinkin | February 08, 2024