From farming to other businesses where the payroll may span 50 or 60 years, a human relations expert says age differences can become barriers without some focused effort.
“It's pretty unusual. We would have as many as five generations in the workplace,” says Rodd Welker, president and owner of Eagle Advisor Group. “And I would also add to the fact that we have now the largest generation in the workplace, the Millennials.”
As most farmers and ranchers are over 60, families are exploring how to pass the torch. It helps to share stories and perspectives from each age group.
“You have the different generations, different generations are going to do things differently. It may not be run exactly the same way, but trust the process. Trust the fact that you've empowered them, you have shared your knowledge, your experience, and they're going to ask you maybe do some really cool things, some better things with that family business,” he says.
Welker says the family element can make for stormy seas in navigating transitions.
“Businesses in general have a hard time about talking about some of the tough stuff,” he says. “Family businesses can really struggle about being transparent and vulnerable and open and talk about some of those struggles and issues they may be having, conflict that they're experiencing.”
Change takes time, but finding common ground will connect better than focusing on the differences.
“For Baby Boomers that maybe are concerned about, okay, what happens next? Again, this is where you've got to trust the fact that if you've done the right things and that you've shared your experiences and shared your knowledge to the next generation that you've got to trust that it's going to pay dividends,” Welker says.
It’s going to pay to know how to engage with every age group, in fact.
“There is so much evidence that with a diverse generational team, you can accomplish so much more, because you're bringing in all those different backgrounds and experiences and expertise that I don't have as a Baby Boomer. But bringing in a Millennial on my team, what can we do now?” he asks.
Welker says generations work best together when they invest in relationships and break down perceived generational barriers.