Speak Their Language: Ways to Bridge the Generation Gap at Work

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Bridging the generation gap at work can be achieved in five simple steps, according to an expert who presented yesterday at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 15th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition. Fred Hoffman, M.Ed., director of education at Batuka, offered several suggestions for employers struggling with a diverse workforce.

Hoffman explained that today’s workforce comprises four distinct generations:

  • Radio Babies, born between 1925 and 1945, represent 16 percent of the workforce.
  • Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, represent 26 percent of the workforce.
  • Generation X, born between 1965 and 1977, represent 22 percent of the workforce.
  • Millennials, born after 1978, represent 36 percent of the workforce.

“Defining events – such as the Great Depression, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 terrorist attacks – coupled with the political climate and state of the economy significantly impact children growing up in those times,” said Hoffman. “Each generation’s behaviors, core values, attitudes and work ethics are shaped by their formative years.”

Employers who understand the individualities of each generation can foster collaboration and increase retention. Hoffman suggested these strategies for employers needing to bridge the generation gap:

  • Hire the right staff, and learn how to retain them. Keep employees engaged and interested by writing job descriptions, establishing policies, offering benefits and creating professional development opportunities that meet the needs of each generation.
  • Understand how your team members act, react and interact. Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of each generation, and get to know your employees as individuals.
  • Look at conflict from each generation’s point of view. Encourage managers and management teams to understand their employees’ points of view and acknowledge what is important to them.
  • Use common bonds to resolve conflict and bridge the generations. Establish company values to unify the generations.
  • Communication is key. Avoid confrontations and misunderstandings by creating a dialogue among staff that accommodates all generations.

Despite the many differences, Hoffman emphasized one commonality among all people – the need to be respected.

“All people want to be respected,” said Hoffman. “It’s vital to recognize that every employee brings unique perspectives and experiences to the company and to appreciate what each person contributes.”


The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 40,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.