Opportunities for four generations to work together for perhaps the first time need to be harnessed by employers, says kiwi entrepreneur Derek Handley.

Millennials (people born after 1980), Generation Xers (1965-1979) Baby Boomers (1945-1964), and Veterans (1922 and 1944) can currently all be found in some workplaces and Handley says the opportunities for collaboration are exciting.

"Every generation has a different angle to share, learn and contribute," Handley said.

"What's exciting and interesting at the moment is you can weave a fabric of connectivity through a workplace."


Handley, best known for starting advertising agency Hyperfactory and currently behind the Aera foundation, said every generation can learn from people in other age groups in the workplace and it's up to employers to encourage the interaction across age groups.

Millennials and Generation Z are often considered "extremely confident, eager, impatient," Handley said.

"The positive is they have energy... and natural fluency in the technology of the next generation, digital or otherwise."

"It's the same for any generation there's positives and things you can harness and it's about building around those [characteristics] when you think about taking advantage [of your workforce]."

Handley said employers need to encourage the inter-generational relationships in the workplace.

"If you're not paying attention to it, its not going to thrive... different perspectives are all valuable."

Handley said younger people often seek a mentor in the workplace who is older, but older workers need to find a young person they can learn from, too.

"Reverse mentoring is really positive."


New generation communication approaches, like workplace instant messaging tool Slack, can be "a real minefield" Handley said.

Older generations come have experienced workplace communication in times before email and fax were around, while younger generations are used to communicating in instant messaging like Snapchat and Messenger.

Having a work environment that is focused on communicating digitally first can have a negative impact, he said.

"It takes away a lot of the value of face-to-face human discussions and out of the office discussions when you just carry things on in a digital stream of chat."

Handley said Generation X think millennials are "totally entitled", but millennials think that of younger generation Z and think they "literally expect everything to start on day one."

Handley is the keynote speaker at the next PwC Herald Talks: Generation War event on September 14 7am-9am. Handley will be joined by panellists Labour MP Jacinda Adern, Kirsti Grant, co-founder and CEO of Populate, Fiona Hewitt, CEO of IMNZ and Chris Litchfield, managing director of Coca-Cola (NZ) Amatil (CCA) and Fiji. Tickets are available at iTicket.