31 July '23

7 minute read

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We recently brought together an exclusive group of leading FDs, MDs and CFOs from successful fast-growing businesses. Providing the opportunity for a thought-provoking conversation about the challenges posed by the generation gap within their businesses. All over an excellent meal.

We know from experience and talking to our clients the life of a business leader can be challenging. Whilst we appreciate that every business is unique, many of the challenges they face are similar. We also know there’s significant value in sharing insights and best practice with your peers. Helping each other to avoid pitfalls at crucial stages. Our roundtable dinner certainly provided a lively and collaborative environment for this happen.

Chatham House rules were firmly in place, so we won’t be breaking any confidences. But we thought we’d provide a flavour of the insights and reflections shared during this intimate gathering. Uncovering the hurdles that people are facing. We’re not giving away all their strategies to overcome them. After all that’s one of the perks of being in the room. And there were some great practical ideas.


Today’s companies face a unique puzzle: how to manage a workforce that spans different generations. Each generation brings its own values, attitudes, and quirks to the table. But let’s be real, this generational divide also brings its fair share of challenges.

Our dinner drew on the experience of business leaders from a range of sectors. Newspapers to tech platforms; professional services to care homes; engineering and logistics companies were represented. All very different sectors but our dinner guests identified a number of consistent themes.


A particular challenge for family businesses that have been around three, five or even more generations. Ever noticed those wise old owls in business? They’re a goldmine of knowledge, but the catch is, they’re about to retire. Fresh blood is needed to inherit that wisdom.

But then how do you find the young people who are interested? That’s a whole other struggle. Particularly when they need to deal with customer-facing problems that require good old-fashioned manual solutions.

Tech-based companies have a different set of recruitment woes. They can snatch up fresh-faced graduates faster than you can say “Silicon Valley,” but guess what? They’ve got to pay big bucks to do it. And that causes a bit of friction with experienced employees who’ve been there for ages, earning less.

Worse it’s not just about competing within an industry anymore. Salary scales get all wonky depending on where you are located. And some sectors can’t even attract the younger crowd because their salary and work expectations are out of kilter with the business needs.


Industries like newspapers and professional services face retention challenges. As these sectors evolve, businesses end up with a mix of long-serving employees on good salaries and the acquisition of new media companies with younger staff earning less. It’s one way to ensure longevity through business diversification but it brings challenges.

To make things even more complicated the poaching of staff by competitors can add another level of complexity. Pushing up salaries. Keeping everyone happy can be a bit of a financial rollercoaster.

Then there’s the challenge of convincing old dogs to learn new tricks. There’s value in experience but things are changing. “But this is how we’ve always done it!” isn’t a good enough reason to keep things as they are.


Did you know that by 2025 it’s estimated that 30% of the working age population will be made up of Generation Z? The employment axis is shifting, particularly with so many over 50s retiring. In 2025, the oldest members of Generation Z will be around 24 to 25 years old, while the youngest members will be in their early teens.

Many of this population will never have worked before covid. Having little or no experience of working in an office. Their office is often their bedroom. In the family home.

They are generation zoom. Their job interview was likely to have happened via a screen. Recruiting, training and retaining them is hard.

Unlike Boomers and Generation X, Millennials and Gen Z aren’t focussed on owning property. Their values are different. That’s not their primary reason for working. They care about business purpose and values. They’re mobile, flexible and ready to challenge the status quo. They’re not slow in demanding more pay or perks. They’re certainly not looking for a job for life. It’s estimated they’re likely to have 10 to 20 different jobs during their working life.


Bob Diamond, the former CEO of Barclays, once said, “You can see a company’s culture by looking at how people behave when they think the boss isn’t watching.”

Around the table there was a consensus that leaders play a crucial role in setting the company culture. They need to celebrate success, create a fun atmosphere, and provide opportunities for growth. It’s about being visible. Having an open-door policy, and actually getting to know your people. Long gone are the days when employees stay at their desks until the boss leaves.

Mentoring is critical. Mentors are the Jedi masters of the company. They help those new to the workforce understand the importance of not abusing ‘trinket benefits’ that come with the job. Whether that’s in the form of a beer fridge, pool table, the option of hybrid working from home or flexible hours.


There was also agreement that in this tech-driven world, we can’t ignore the power of AI and new developments. Companies need to stay ahead of the game and adapt. Don’t be a dinosaur – embrace technology. After all, it’s been a catalyst for change ever since the industrial revolution.

To summarise, navigating the generational divide in companies is like trying to herd cats. It’s a challenge, but with the right mindset and strategies, we can bridge that gap. By understanding the needs and expectations of each generation, we can attract, train, and retain the best talent. So, let’s embrace change, keep up with the latest tech, and build a kickass culture that everyone wants to be a part of. The future is bright.


We’re planning to hold some more exclusive invite-only events. They’ll provide a rare opportunity to informally mingle within your peer group. If you’d like to tap into this treasure trove of wisdom, drop us an email through the link below so we can add you to our potential invite list.

Or if any of the above has sparked some thoughts you’d like to discuss do get in touch.