The multigenerational workforce: If you supervise one then you know each generation brings its own set of strengths and values to the workplace. But this diversity often presents challenges for a manager charged with overseeing the newest members of the workforce, Generation Y, and the oldest, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. So how do you manage the multigenerational workforce effectively and productively? Let’s start with general info about each generation:
The Four Generations
Generation Y: Also called Millennials, this group, born after 1980, was raised on technology. They also seek feedback on tasks and performance as well as value both online and offline relationships.
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Generation X: These employees born between 1965 and 1980 often seek a work-life balance that provides the quality of life they’re looking for. Gen Xers appreciate mutual respect and open communication.
Baby Boomers: A strong work ethic is the hallmark of this generation, born between 1946 and 1964. They value face-to-face interaction and are often considered loyal employees. Boomers are also accustomed to the concept of working their way up the corporate ladder.
Traditionalists: Sometimes coined the Silent Generation, this group includes workers born before 1946. They may remember the lean years of World War II or were perhaps raised by parents who struggled through the Great Depression.
Remember, these are general traits for the multigenerational workforce. You may find a younger employee with the mentality of an older worker, or vice versa. They key is to be aware that generational differences do exist, and, as a supervisor, you need to take those differences into consideration.
How to Successfully Manage a Multigenerational Workforce
- Nurture mentoring relationships. Gen Y’s were raised on email, text messages, Facebook, and Twitter, while Boomers know CRM and other enterprise management tools inside and out. Take advantage of each group’s strengths and pair up older and younger workers to mentor each other.
- Create a productive environment. Each group may have preferences regarding the work environment. For instance, working from home mirrors the way many new professionals worked in college, so consider adding a work-from-home arrangement for Gen Y employees. Boomers and other generations are often comfortable with traditional office hours but may also appreciate flex scheduling that allows them to vary their work hours.
- Communicate with a range of tools. While a Boomer/Traditionalist might prefer face-to-face communication, a Gen Y worker is completely comfortable with an email, text, or other electronic message. Consider disseminating messages in multiple ways to ensure each group in the multigenerational workforce is more likely to read it.
- Foster a respectful environment. Each set of the multigenerational workforce brings its own strengths and experiences, meaning that each worker deserves respect and trust. As a supervisor, work to create an environment free of ideas like “Those darn kids on their smartphones…” or “Those old people just won’t change…”
- Reward good behavior. Reward the multigenerational workforce frequently and as soon as possible after the positive action happens. Because there is a range of differences in what each generation values, consider allowing the employee to choose their reward. For example, allow him or her to choose a gift card from a list of local businesses. This gives the Gen Y worker the freedom to choose a card to the hot new tapas restaurant while the Boomer or Traditionalist might prefer a gift card to a gardening center or golf shop.
The multigenerational workforce can be challenging, but by taking each group’s values and preferences into consideration you can build a team that gets the job done productively and profitably.
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