According to a new international survey of workers aged 18–65, nearly all (90%) respondents prefer having colleagues of different ages and say a multigenerational workplace is mutually beneficial.

However, the Randstad Workmonitor Q2 2018 also found communication is often where the alignment between generations breaks down.

Inspiration over Age 

Although most workers prefer an older manager, an inspirational manager trumps age:

  • Although 84% of workers say the age of their direct managers is not important as long as they are inspirational, 76% surveyed prefer their direct managers be the same age or older.
  • Younger workers apparently see the value that a more tenured manager can bring, as 92% of workers aged 25 to 34 agree they'd rather have an older boss.

Communication Barriers

Communication is where generational differences are most keenly felt in a multigenerational workplace:

  • Eighty-one percent of workers agree the primary difference between generations in the workplace is communication styles.
  • More than a third of workers (38%) admit they find it difficult to communicate with coworkers who are not in their own age group.
  • Men are nearly twice as likely as women to report difficulty communicating with coworkers outside of their generation (49% of men, versus 27% of women).

Managing a Multigenerational Workplace

The majority of workers feel their managers are generally effective in managing and working alongside employees from different generations, but there may be room for improvement:

  • Eighty-three percent of workers say their direct managers are talented at working together with various generations.
  • Fifty-eight percent say their direct managers treat colleagues from various generations differently. Whether this is perceived as a positive thing or not varies from person to person, but it is clear that managers should tailor their communication styles to individual team members.

Managers must work to tailor feedback to help individuals maximize their potential.
"Part of the challenge of managing effectively is knowing how to relay your message, which requires understanding the individual communication styles of the people on your team and how they approach their work," said Jim Link, chief human resources officer for Randstad North America, in a statement.

"There are more generations in the workforce than ever before, which has resulted in a greater variety of expectations around workplace communication.

"People in different stages of their lives and careers are also motivated in different ways, and managers must work to tailor feedback to help individuals maximize their potential."

Social Media

Younger workers are particularly engaged with colleagues on social channels:

  • Fifty-four percent of employees connect with their colleagues on social media, while only 33% connect with their direct managers.
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, the numbers increase with younger generations: 75% of workers aged 18 to 24 report being connected with colleagues on social media compared to just 33% of workers aged 55 to 67.

Methodology: The study is conducted online among employees aged 18–65 who work a minimum of 24 hours a week in paid (not self-employed) roles. The minimum sample size is 400 interviews per country. The Survey Sampling International panel is used for sampling purposes. The second survey of 2018 was conducted April 23–May 14, 2018.