Working In A Multigenerational Workplace

By Mike Holmes

Mike’s Advice / Mike Jr

Monday, October 26th, 2020 @ 10:41am

I’ve been part of my dad’s construction crew for over a decade now and I believe multigenerational workplaces are a good thing. I think it’s a good idea to have the different perspectives that each generation can bring to the job site. There are some challenges that come up with this – but with clear communication and respect for all parties, anything that does arise can typically be overcome.

Although there is clearly a difference between generations when it comes to style, technique, and familiarity with technology, having a multigenerational workforce is beneficial because there are many different techniques that are shared. Also, the knowledge and experience from the Boomer/Generation X that they bring to the table is worth its weight in gold.

I’ve been working with my dad for years – so I have firsthand experience working in a multigenerational workplace, not to mention the experience working closely with members of your family.

Although my dad is very open to learning about new technology and techniques, sometimes it can be a little hard for him to hear it from his son. I’ve found in general, when we’re talking about brining in the new school technology and techniques, that’s where the biggest hurdles are between melding multigenerational workforces.

The Old School vs New School Mentality

I’m sure anyone who’s worked with older generations has heard this old one. “When I was younger, we did it the old fashioned way: through hard work.”

Believe me, when I bring new tools on to the job site, this is one I hear a lot from my dad. 

Now, I’m not saying stories and examples don’t get exaggerated – and I know I’ll be guilty of this myself one day – but if I have to hear about how the old guard didn’t need the same tools we use today to get the same job done in half the time, I’m going to lose it.

As an example, my dad had me working to remove a popcorn ceiling from a home we were working on. Had we done it his way, I’d have been up there for days, spray bottle in hand, scraping the popcorn ceiling off. Instead, I brought in a tool called a Planex – and told him it was great for sanding down popcorn ceilings, while keeping the room virtually dust-free. Either method works, but he was so used to his old way, that he had trouble wrapping his head around a new way to do it.

Or take design as an example. One thing my dad and I STILL can’t agree on is some of our design choices. I like to work with an interior designer and bring in current trends to our projects – while my dad insists on doing the design himself. This means we’re always butting heads about whether to put hardwood (my choice) or carpet (his) in the bedrooms of the homes we work on. He has come around though. For our show Holmes and Holmes Season 3, we did hire an interior designer for all of our projects.


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Finding New Ways to Get Inspired

The younger generations are much more active online and tend to spend more time connecting with other pros over social media. I follow a ton of different woodworkers and contractors on Instagram – and they’ve taught me a lot and inspired some of my own projects.

When I built my dad a “River Table” for a gift he was blown away with what you could do with wood and epoxy now. A lot of this, I learned about through social media. In my dad’s day – his knowledge would have come from other tradespeople, books, and hands on experience. This isn’t a bad thing – but we’re able to cast such a wider net now, and connect with so many more people to learn from through the reach of social media and the Internet.

Check out my Instagram page. I post my project photos and videos there from time to time.

Moving Forward – and Changing the Narrative

The old generation has been a huge contributor to our trades workforce – and now that they’re retiring, we could be facing a major skills shortage. Thar’s one of the reasons we are always talking about how we can encourage the younger generation to consider the skilled trades as a career. I love working with Skills Canada because they share our passion for promoting the trades.

Now more than ever we need to encourage the younger generation to get into the skilled trades, as well as supporting women in the skilled trades. There has been a huge stigma within the skilled trades that it is for men only, and that if you are uneducated and exhaust your other options career wise you can settle for the trades. 

We all know this is false, and that it is quite the opposite. The trades are not a fallback career and require a huge level of skill and precision. And the women I’ve worked with in the trades prove that it’s definitely not a “man’s world”

It is time to encourage our youth (of all genders) to consider a career in skilled trades especially because we are seeing such a large shortage in skilled trades workers, but also because it is an extremely rewarding career where there is a lot of money to be made.


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