Zoomer to Boomer Event Synopsis

Centre for Inclusive Designs’ take on The Culture Equations ‘Zoomer to Boomer’ event. We heard from our own Manisha Amin and other leaders in the startup ecosystem on how to tackle the intergenerational workforce and turn this complex challenge into a competitive advantage.

Today’s workforce consists of people from five generations. A multigenerational workforce presents many exciting opportunities for managers leading organisations. It also has its challenges. No one understands this better than Fiona Goode, Manisha Amin, Dan Brockwell, and Yaniv Bernstein, who have had years of industry experience navigating these challenges. Thanks to Hiam Sakakini and the team at Culture Equation, these four joined each other on a panel to discuss how to turn the inevitable intergenerational workplace friction into your company’s competitive advantage. 

Boomers and Zoomers are different. As Fiona Goode, producer of Old People’s home for Teenagers, explains, ‘Generational gaps exist across the board, they exist within my business, and they exist within yours’. Fiona uses the analogy of our childhood to explain our differences. Boomers played on the street and were largely left to their own (non-digital) devices. Zoomers, however, have grown up indoors, wrapped in cotton wool, and with a wealth of connection and information at their fingertips. 

Saying each generation speaks a different language would be an understatement. Manisha Amin, CEO of Centre for Inclusive Design, suggests, ‘Australia is an individualised culture, and we value what is best for ourselves, not the collective’. Boomers are old school. They value traditional education, ‘doing your time’ in the workplace hierarchy and working your way up. Zoomers, on the other hand, are all about flexibility, agility, freedom in the workplace, and ethics. Earlywork co-founder, Dan Brockman, pointed out that 71 percent of Zoomers wouldn’t work for a company that does not prioritise climate change. 

If age is more than just a number, how can we build a workplace to bridge the gap? 

Yaniv Bernstein, CEO of Circular, says the first thing we need to do is debias our thinking. ‘There’s an assumption that young people fresh out of University are not workforce ready, but with internships, apprenticeships and part-time jobs, young people don’t wait till after University to get their careers started.’ Debiasing our thinking works both ways. According to the UN Global Report on Ageism, one in two people are ageist against older people.  

Organisations should re-evaluate their recruitment materials and career development programs to create an inclusive workplace. We need to stop attributing value to age, and value the unique skills and experience each individual brings to an organisation.  

In creating a flourishing intergenerational workforce, introducing the hybrid working model has added a twist to the equation. Flexible work arrangements are a minimum requirement for most job seekers, however, it comes at the cost of incidental learning, connection, engagements, and spending time around each other. Although the days of the water cooler may be behind us, Dan, Fiona, Manisha, and Yaniv, all agree on the value of creating opportunities to spend time together in person. Manisha’s team has a ‘tools down day’ once a month, where everyone participates in a learning experience. Yaniv’s team, based in Sydney and Singapore, comes together twice a year for a retreat. 

There was one straightforward takeaway from the panel’s discussion, being a flourishing multigenerational workplace is where people succeed, are recognised for their contribution, enjoy where they work, and feel supported and a part of the team. Building this kind of culture looks different in every organisation and it’s an inside-out approach. ‘Engage with your team and have the time to learn what each generation is about,’ says Fiona. Most importantly, remember, to manage an intergenerational workforce is not as easy as ABC. Be patient, learn from your mistakes, and know that a cohesive, flourishing force is a goal worth working towards.