The landscape of the American workforce is changing. Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce, Gen X are becoming the new seniors, Millennials are moving up the ladder, and Generation Z employees are just getting their start in corporate America. To continue to be competitive managers will need a strategy to ensure that Generation X, Y, and Z workers are ready to fill the increasing number of vacancies in leadership roles as Baby Boomers retire.
Focus developmental training on readiness for career transitions
For most people, generational identity is less important than the aspects of their identity that evolve along with career (promotions, role changes) and life milestones (marriage, kids). By developing training programs that help employees cope with role and career transitions, managers can reinforce and support the idea that careers evolve, and that employees need to be prepared for these changes.
Establish mentorship opportunities
Millennials and the workforce newcomers in Generation Z commonly cite a lack of mentorship opportunities as a major issue in today’s workplace. By providing both formal and informal mentoring opportunities, you can help up-and-coming employees develop the skills needed to thrive in your company. If mentors are not available in the workplace, provide resources to encourage employees to find mentors outside the organization.
Aim to break down generational barriers
While there are a few general differences between generations, each individual may or may not fit into pre-existing stereotypes. Baby Boomers and Generation X employees have, for the most part, experienced similar developmental paths. When Millennials entered the workforce, they changed the culture and day-to-day processes in many offices. Millennials prefer to work from home and are often more tech savvy than coworkers from other generations. By encouraging intergenerational interaction, you can diminish the effects of most stereotypes and stigmas in the workplace. Encourage employees of different generations to work together for the overall success of the company.
Implement succession planning systems
Today’s Generation Y and Z employees will be tomorrow’s leaders. It is important to prepare them with the skills they will need to fill these roles. A strategy of intergenerational collaboration and mentorship encourages the older generation employees to pass their skills on to the industry newcomers. In this way, managers can ensure that there will be a smooth succession of leadership when Baby Boomers retire.
Encourage positive characteristics in employee interactions
A study by Joshi et al. found that characteristics of positive intergenerational interactions include trust, mutual respect, and cooperation based on the knowledge, skills, and resources of each cohort. Encourage positive intergenerational interactions in the workplace such as mentoring and reverse mentoring opportunities to build a strong team and develop future leaders.
Organizations can help ensure a smooth succession of leadership by considering the five-part strategy outlined in this article. This approach will help Generation X, Y, and Z workers become confident and effective leaders.
 Joshi, A., Dencker, J. C., Franz, G., & Martocchio, J. J. 2010. Unpacking generational identities in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 35(3): 392–414.
Dr. Candace Steele Flippin is a multigenerational workplace scholar, author and public affairs expert.