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NextGen Magazine


Cross-generational Learning More Important Than We Think

Zach Simeone
Published Date:
Nov 22, 2016

iStock-165645906 Cross-generational learning, knowledge, keys

At work, a younger generation often takes the advice of senior colleagues. But nowadays, as the retirement age increases and the workforce becomes older, experienced professionals looking to continue with their jobs could take some advice from younger co-workers.

In fact, research shows that with greater emphasis on cross-generational mentoring, longer and more satisfying careers may be possible.

Certainly, digitally native millennials have a leg up on older co-workers when it comes to picking up modern technology. But there are key sociological aspects of your professional life that may wear away as you progress through your 40s and 50s, according to a report from Harvard Business Review.

Through an online survey, the publication canvassed more than 10,000 of its readers, across all age groups, about maintenance of their “tangible and intangible assets.” Predictably, financial literacy was on a steady incline as people got older. And those over the age of 40 felt more in control at work — an intangible asset that is particularly important when balancing a family with the demands of a growing career — than those in their 30s.

But when it came to interpersonal development, the findings showed a greater risk of stagnation as people progressed into their 50s, which could inhibit other forms of personal and professional growth.

“The development of relationships and networks is crucial at any stage,” the Review wrote. Its survey found that, while those under 50 tend to continuously build new networks, those over 50 tend to only maintain theirs, leading to homogenous and static networks.

At the same time, those in their 40s reported being asked for advice more frequently than any other age group, despite the fact that their knowledge base would almost inevitably continue to expand as they got older. This is largely attributed to those over the age of 50 being less active about building their reputations as sources of knowledge.

With increased coaching across age groups and a steadier flow of knowledge that breaks through generational barriers, we may see a more capable, productive, and happier workforce.