Wanted: all ages

Empowering innovation across generations can lead to sustained business success

Jennifer Vessels Next Step

hoto courtesy of Jennifer Vessels
Diverse generational collaboration can lead to a happy culture and sustainable business success.

Jennifer Vessels
Next Step—Silicon Valley & Oslo, Norway

To address the challenges of digitalization and global competition, many business leaders are turning to young “digital natives” as the ultimate solution. However, hiring recent graduates, with the latest coding and data science skills to address the need for digitalization may not be the perfect path to future success.

In fact, it can create an interesting dichotomy. The World Economic Forum and others cite the future competence requirements for business success as empathy, critical strategic thinking, complex problem solving, creativity, and leadership—not the latest technical skills.

While young people are often more likely to come up with innovative new ideas and concepts, they lack the empathy, negotiation, and people skills, as well as context needed for effective implementation of solutions. Expecting younger generation workers to singlehandedly take on digitalization projects can be unfair to the worker, demotivating to their more experienced colleagues, and damaging to the business.

Alternatively, truly innovative organizations see the opportunity for experienced older employees (50+) to collaborate with and mentor their younger colleagues. By combining an understanding of how things have worked in the past with fresh ideas and digital skills, companies can gain the best of both perspectives.

At Google and Cisco, multi-generational teams are consistently seen as the highest producers—integrating out-of-the box thinking with experienced empathy, complex problem solving, and strategic thinking. The short-term benefits are enhanced results and more satisfied employees development of the workforce of the future.

The real long-term benefit to society is increased sustainability of the workforce by giving everyone new opportunities for growth and learning. Many studies show that continuous learning has significant positive impact on mental and physical health at all ages. Learning, relevance, and contribution is not based on age but on motivation, training, and opportunities to remain active.

By encouraging collaboration and learning across the generations, we can destroy the myth that people older than 50 are outdated. Integrated, diverse teams in which tenured workers mentor, train, and collaborate with digital natives enhances employees’ valuable professional and life experience. Simultaneously, it increases company success and extends the longevity of the current workforce.

Innovation and digitalization shouldn’t be left to the young to deal with. It provides an opportunity for growth and success for everyone—through collaboration across the generations.

Jennifer Vessels is CEO of Next Step. Contact Jennifer for more insight re cross-generational collaboration to increase future readiness via jvessels@nextstepgrowth.com or (650) 218-0902.

This article originally appeared in the July 26, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.