As president of the consulting firm Practice Development Counsel, Phyllis Weiss Haserot helps companies increase profitability by focusing on improving relationships among generations. Haserot, the author of the forthcoming book, Generations & Money: Talk About the Last Taboo, talks to contributing writer Michelle Lodge about working with multiple generations.

1. How does addressing age diversity affect profitability?
Multi-generational advisor teams have the potential to serve clients well across the spectrum of ages and also to sustain a practice when older advisors want to transition out. Generation-based conflicts, brought on by differing work styles, interpersonal and relationship building skills and image (attire, tattoos and piercings) and other perceptions of professionalism, need to be addressed sensitively and in a timely fashion to maintain a productive work environment. If not, and conflict arises, a useful approach is to employ facilitation and mediation techniques that assure all sides are heard and come to solutions [in a collaborative fashion.] Firms and individual teams can bring in a neutral third party to help or internally establish an ombudsman role and specified protocol. Some branch managers or business unit heads may not have the skills to deal well and fairly with workplace conflicts. Since these frequently affect client relationships—and serving and retaining clients is paramount—systems and outside support are a good investment.

2. What should financial advisors note when working with clients of different generations?
Advisors may have to adjust their choice of communication to suit the client. Perhaps they schedule fewer in-person meetings for Gen Y/Millennial clients and more for Traditionalists (the generation older than the baby boomers) and boomers. Clients of younger generations may need more hand-holding and financial-literacy education. The generations also may have different approaches to philanthropy, which may cause tensions within families. Some younger members may want to support environmental causes and start-up non profits, while their parents may favor giving to long-standing charities, such as the arts, hospitals and medical research facilities. Also, many Gen Yers and Xers favor donating in different ways. Even though they may write smaller checks, they tend to crowd-fund and donate online and like to have an active involvement in the philanthropies they support.

3. How many generations are involved?
The workplace has four generations, and among clients, there are five.

4. Some firms fail to tap into the value and perspectives of employees of different generations. Why is that a problem?
By not taking advantage of the perspectives of employees of diverse generations and the value they bring, firms may pass up opportunities to give clients what they want and need. Some clients may want to work with advisors of their own generation who have experienced a range of economic cycles. Others may prefer younger advisors, as long as they have a good track record, because they believe those advisors will not retire soon and pass them on to someone else. Older clients may enjoy working with younger advisors, too, because of their high energy, fresh perspectives and eye on the next big thing.

5. When FAs report to younger managers, what is best to keep in mind?
Older and younger [workers] need to stay open to new approaches and share stories of successful business development techniques, rapport building, managing time and how to handle difficult client situations. Be open to learning from each other.

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