Kristin Wagner at Playvox provides four tips for managing a multi-generational contact centre.
In the next three years, there will be a generational shift in the U.S. workforce. As more Baby Boomers transition to retirement and those in Gen Z kick off their careers, we’ll start to feel the influence of younger professionals and the dynamics of the American workplace adjust.
Just as we tailor our approach to meet the needs of our customers, each generation has different expectations for workplace interactions.
These are the four generations that will make up the 2025 workforce, each with its own unique characteristics, behaviors, and attitudes:
Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)
16% of 2025 workforce
With the oldest members of the generation born a year after the conclusion of World War II, this group is characterized by its post-war idealism and strong work ethic.
Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980)
29% of 2025 workforce
As the generation that learned to do things manually before being introduced to computers at school, Gen X bridges the gap between the traditional and the digital. The group is often viewed as competitive and individualistic.
Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996)
44% of 2025 workforce
Millennials welcome and embrace new technology. They’re seen as collaborative and as globalists who operate without restrictions on space or location.
Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012)
12% of 2025 workforce
As digital natives, this generation uses social platforms to connect with others and to build their personal brands and businesses. Gen Z is often recognized for having a communicative nature.
Now that we have an overview of the perspectives that will shape our workforce in the next three years, here are four tips to help you successfully manage a multi-generational contact centre team.
1. Focus on What Every Agent Needs
Training, tools, and coaching are elements that each contact centre agent needs, regardless of generation. Avoid the temptation to dwell on team member differences – like clothing, tech savviness, or phrases they use – and instead focus on similarities.
Remember: Regardless of their generation, every employee wants to be recognized and appreciated for who they are, the perspective they bring, and the contributions they make.
2. Learn From Each Other
The beauty of a multi-generational and diverse team is that everyone can learn from everyone. As a team leader, your contact centre agents will follow what you do. Demonstrate that you’re willing to learn from them, just as they can learn from you.
3. Know Your Team
Do you know how your team members prefer to communicate? Whether it’s text, chat, email, in person, or a phone call, try to communicate with your agents in the manner they prefer. Don’t assume you know their desired method simply because of their generation. Instead, ask how they prefer to communicate.
Plenty of Gen Zers talk on the phone and just as many Baby Boomers like to text.
4. Create Mentoring Opportunities
Pair agents with team members in different generations to foster collaboration, understanding, and engagement. In the best mentoring relationships, both parties benefit from knowledge-sharing. When we leverage our strengths, we grow individually and collectively.
Dos and Don’ts in a Multi-Generational Contact Centre
With a diverse team comes different viewpoints, attitudes, and norms. Keep these dos and don’ts in mind when building a multi-generational contact centre.
What to Do in a Multi-Generational Contact Centre:
- Build teams of different age groups to facilitate broad learning. Everyone, including your customers, benefits from diversity.
- Conduct regular surveys for a snapshot of employee needs and preferences. Ensure your company’s policies focus on where your business and employees are headed, not just where they’ve been.
- Give incentives that resonate with an employee’s life stage. A Millennial contact centre agent who’s a parent might appreciate you rewarding them with family tickets to Disney on Ice. But for a Baby Boomer with grown children, those tickets may not provide the same sense of recognition.
What NOT to Do in a Multi-Generational Contact Centre:
- Offer employee affinity groups focused on generations. While companies start these with good intentions, they’re often just vehicles for reinforcing stereotypes.
- Be a top-down manager. Instead, form relationships with employees of all ages and backgrounds and empower them to share their ideas and opinions.
- Assume you know a person because of the generation they’re a part of. See your agents as individuals with unique strengths and goals. Find out if they’re motivated extrinsically – money, praise – or intrinsically – personally rewarded – so you can tailor your support.
More Alike Than Different
Spurred by the pandemic, a 2020 Salesforce survey asked participants if they preferred to work from home, if they preferred a remote/in-office hybrid option, or if they wanted to be in the office full-time.
The survey shows that 35% of Baby Boomers prefer to work in the office full-time and 34% of Gen X respondents want the same. This might not be too surprising given that most members of these groups have likely spent most of their careers working in the office.
What is unexpected, though, is the group that says it most wants a hybrid arrangement. More than 40% of Gen Z respondents say they prefer to split their work weeks between the office and home. The survey also reveals that Gen Z is the generation that least wants to work from home full-time.
In a 2021 Flexjobs survey, 65% of respondents – across all generations – say they prefer to work remotely and 33% say they want a hybrid approach. Only 2% of total respondents say they want to return to the office full-time. Knowing the 2020 survey found that 35% of Baby Boomers wanted to work from home full-time – the highest of all groups – the 2021 results represent a significant shift in just a year’s time.
In a different survey from HubbleHQ conducted in May 2021, participants were asked what they miss most about being in the office. For all the talk of generational differences, the survey shows that the groups have more in common than we might expect.
The top four responses are consistent across generations, varying only by how they ranked. Respondents say they miss:
- Collaborating and in-person team meetings
- Attending events and conferences in-person
- Free coffee and drinks in the office
- Places to do focused work; quiet corners or conference rooms
The similarities continued when the survey asked participants what they’ve gained by working from home. The top five responses are again consistent across the generations:
- No commute
- Financial benefits of not going to the office – saving money on gas, dry cleaning, coffee, eating out
- More time with loved ones
- Increased focus and less distractions
- Positive environmental impact of not driving to the office
While the 2021 Flexjobs survey reveals that nearly two-thirds say they prefer to work remotely, the findings also show that there are aspects of office life that workers miss. Considering how you can recreate these in-office experiences for your remote and multi-generational team could boost motivation and agent engagement.
Much like we tailor the customer experience, consider how you can shape your leadership style to meet the unique needs of your multi-generational contact centre team. You may be tempted to make assumptions about the attitudes, strengths, and preferences of your agents.
But successfully leading a high-performing, diverse team calls for a culture of learning, knowledge-sharing, and mentorship. Every employee wants to be recognized and appreciated for who they are, the perspective they bring, and the contributions they make – regardless of when they were born.