6 Ways to Effectively Manage Your Multi-Generational Workplace
In workplaces today, it isn’t unusual for employees from two, three, or even four generations to work together. Each generation has been shaped by different values and events — and that diversity can be a potential source of conflict. But when managed properly, generational differences can provide a great opportunity to foster learning and growth among employees of all ages.
Understand generational values
The first key to effectively managing a multi-generational workplace is to understand the generations represented and the values and preferences each holds. While generational characteristics may not apply to all employees in a particular group, it is helpful to have an overview of the common traits of each generation. Today’s workplace may include any of the following generations:
Traditionalists/Veterans. This generation includes people born between 1922 and 1946. Traditionalists value loyalty and being recognized for their work and experience. They prefer a top-down chain of command and more face-to-face communication.
Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. They place a high value on sacrifice and are often the “workaholics” in the workplace. Baby Boomers prefer a results-oriented work style and also prefer face-to-face communication or phone communication over more recent technology.
Gen-Xers. Generation X includes people born between 1964 and 1980. They are the first generation to grow up with modern technology. Gen X employees place a high value on independence and flexibility. Their work style is focused on productivity, and they prefer more technology-oriented forms of communication such as email and instant messaging (IM).
Millennials. Also called Generation Y or Gen Y, Millennials are the youngest generation in today’s workforce and were born between 1980 and 2000. Gen Y employees value work-life balance, equality, and interesting job tasks or roles. They prefer a more collaborative and informal work style than the other three generations and often thrive on teamwork. Like Gen X, Millennials prefer using email and IM, but also are comfortable with text messages and social networking.
Tips for managing multiple generations
Understanding how to effectively manage multiple generations can help you and your clients create a more cohesive workplace. Generational differences can manifest in various ways — communication style, work style, use of technology, adaptability to change, and what types of rewards motivate the employee. To make it easier to navigate generational differences, follow these best practices:
- Understand employees’ generational values and manage them based on those values. For example, for Millennials who prefer more interesting tasks, assigning special tasks outside of their normal job description provides the high-interest kind of work that keeps them engaged. Meanwhile, Traditionalists’ desire for recognition makes status and financial rewards more effective tools for keeping them engaged.
- Tailor communications for each generation. When possible, communicate with employees in the manner with which their generation tends to be most comfortable.
- Avoid unnecessary meetings — and keep essential meetings productive. While this practice benefits employees of all generations, it is especially constructive with Gen X-ers who value productivity and Millennials who dislike formality. (For more information about making meetings more productive and efficient, click here.)
- Accommodate generation-specific needs. Gen X-ers might want more time off for family events, whereas Millennials may desire a more flexible schedule to accommodate attendance at special events or continuing education.
- Create opportunities for mentoring between employees of different generations. For example, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists can help Millennials by sharing their wealth of experience and wisdom. Millennials can help teach other generations ways to more effectively use new technology.
- Keep generational differences in perspective and focus on employees’ similarities. Remember, most employees likely share many core values that make them assets to the business — or they wouldn’t have been hired!
Managing employees from multiple generations doesn’t have to be a source of stress in the workplace. Understanding generational values and following a few best practices can help business owners and managers make the most of each employee’s strengths and foster effective communication between employees of all ages. For more in-depth guidance about managing multiple generations in the workplace, you’ll want to look into HR Support Center’s upcoming HR Academy webinar, “ABCs of Generation XYZ.”