Five generations of people are working together in the U.S. today – a historical first. More than a-third of them are millennials.
At the same time, an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers retire every day, with most expected to be gone from the workforce by 2029.
Those are among the statistics inspiring Viasat’s NextGen employee resource group – which is dedicated to stimulating conversations and collaboration across generations. The benefits cut across generational lines; while older employees can pass along wisdom gained through experience, younger ones can share perspectives on technology and social trends.
Make up of U.S. workforce
• Traditionalists, born before 1945: 2 percent • Baby Boomers, born 1946 to 1964: 25 percent • Generation X, born 1965 to 1980: 33 percent • Generation Y or Millennials, born 1981 to 1995: 35 percent • Generation Z, born 1996 to 2012: 5 percent Source: Pew Research Center
Those kinds of interactions also help fight generational tension, defined as a sense of unease with someone from a different generation.
The NextGen ERG launched on Viasat’s Duluth, Ga. campus in 2017, and a second chapter debuted at our Carlsbad, CA headquarters earlier this year.
Group co-founder Christopher Dreybus, 30, saw the need after joining Viasat’s Duluth office in 2015. He wanted work relationships that went beyond other millennials.
“It’s cool to connect with other young people, but you also want to connect with people who are going to mentor you,” he said. “I wanted to be as inclusive as possible, to go to the senior execs and connect with them. We’re the next group to lead the company, so we need to learn from them. But it’s a two-way street; we can both learn from one another.”
Dreybus and fellow Duluth employees James Eccles and Alex Fordyce lead the group in Georgia. They host a deliberate mix of serious and fun events – from talks by senior executives to happy hours and off-campus fundraisers. All of it is meant to encourage both thoughtful discussion and light-hearted interaction.
“Breaking those generational barriers is difficult to do without a common event,” Dreybus said. “The goal is to connect and enrich yourself and get to know people you wouldn’t in a typical day.”
Their most recent event featured a panel of speakers representing a cross-section of positions at the Duluth office, which focuses on antenna systems.
“We pulled together people from different departments that don’t work together on a regular basis,” Eccles said. “And that included people who have been here 15 or 20 years. We think it’s good to hear from a variety of people on different subjects.
“And we tend not to stay on one specific topic. Helping the next generation isn’t just about the workplace, so the focus can be on career or personal life.”
To that end, the Duluth NextGen is planning events focusing on mortgages and investing, and the history of the Atlanta area.
It partners with the Georgia chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and has raised a significant number of funds for the nonprofit.
“Volunteering and putting in extra effort outside of social events is part of what defines career and personal development, which is the purpose of our group,” Eccles said. “Plus, it’s another way to get to know your peers.”
Cross-generational in Carlsbad
In January, Carlsbad-based Mackenzie Rubish started a NextGen chapter in Carlsbad. Rubish works closely with Dreybus and was inspired by the group’s impact in Duluth. The 33-year-old knows the value of cross-generational experiences first-hand. She’s technically a millennial, but as the youngest of four, feels equally at home with Generation X.
“I can converse with both, so I feel I can help bring the generations together,” she said. “The main goal of our group is to bridge those gaps between generations and bring a platform for people to have the conversation on a personal level, on a career level, even a community level.”
Like Dreybus, she sees benefits for everyone involved.
“On a career level, people can learn how to build their careers. But it’s also good on a personal level; for people just getting married, they can get insight on how to adjust the work/life balance.”
The Carlsbad NextGen group is still firming up its events, planning a mix of formal and informal gatherings similar to Duluth’s.
“Without a group like this, I think people tend to flock to their age group,” Rubish said. “By creating environments for all generations to converse, you find out everyone has a lot in common.”