In a workplace where many employees remain well into their 60s, and school leavers and graduates are joining teams, employers face a new set of challenges in managing an increasingly age-variant workforce.
There may already be Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y (Millennials) on your team, with Gen Z soon to join the helm!
As a leader, you might be wondering how to best manage this diverse age range to get the best out of your team.
How to handle a multigenerational team is a topic we are frequently asked about on our training programmes, so I thought it would be useful to write an article about the different generations that make up today’s workforce.
The best way forward is to use your emotional intelligence to understand your team, learn how to tackle their different wants and needs, interpret their motivations and responses, and enable you to get the best out of everyone.
Here’s your guide to the generations, what works for them – and what doesn’t!
Working with Baby Boomers (1946 – 64) – Loyal And Value Job Security
Raised in a time when a strict hierarchy was the norm in business, this group are unlikely to approach senior management direct with their ideas, so you will need to draw their suggestions out to access what can often be valuable input.
Baby Boomers don t respond well to what they perceive as insincerity in flamboyant praise or constant feedback, seeing the first as phoney and the second as a waste of their time. Just let them get on with the job in hand and acknowledge good work when it is done, keeping it to a minimum for it to remain authentic.
Often loyal to their company and concerned with job security, Boomers are unlikely to jump ship at the drop of a hat. As a leader, you would be advised to make the most of this – their long-term knowledge and understanding of your company not only makes them valuable in their role but crucial as a conduit of knowledge to new, younger employees.
Boomers believe their experience and longevity in their role alone should be enough to garner respect – this can be the cause of friction between them and younger generations who hold different opinions in giving merit.
Showing Boomers, you value their contribution will motivate them to do a great job and feel appreciated.
Finally, encouraging your Boomers to share their knowledge with younger generations will show you respect them – and you never know, maybe the younger generations can teach them something in return!
Working With Generation X (1965 – 1980) – Enjoy Challenge And Change
Gen X tends to be independent and resourceful, valuing freedom and autonomy in the workplace.
They, like Gen Y, place more on merit than seniority, but Gen X is more accepting about the fact that it takes time to get to the top of the career ladder so they are willing to put in the effort to achieve their career goals.
Technologically adept, they tend to be creative in their outlook and enjoy change and challenge – to successfully lead them you will need to find out what engages and motivates them. Fail to do this – and they will be looking for another job.
Gen X seeks an excellent work–life balance but are tolerant of longer hours – show you value their contribution and commitment by being prepared to negotiate flexible hours or working from home options.
As this generation moves to more senior positions, you can best manage them by maintaining a balance between allowing autonomy and not letting them do as they please. Managed well, they have the resourcefulness and vision to drive your company towards its goals.
Working With Generation Y (1982 – 2000) – Postivive Energy And Fresh Outlook
Also known as Millennials, this group often get labelled negatively as high maintenance and headstrong. Time Magazine ran a cover story stating Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists.
That’s a bit unfair, however. They have a lot of positive qualities, not least their positive energy and fresh outlook.
Their ambivalence towards showing respect purely based on job title means you will have to work hard to earn their good opinion by displaying valid credibility and competence as a leader. If they are inspired by you, their enthusiasm and commitment will show no bounds.
Additionally, their dynamic and fresh ideas can breath life into your business and challenge the status quo, but like Gen X, make sure you take them seriously. If you don’t listen to them or they get bored – they will soon feel unfulfilled and switch jobs.
Wanting to feel part of the bigger picture, it pays to keep them in touch with the company vision. Trust and engagement will ensure they stay focused, while a transparent career ladder will motivate them.
Tech-savvy, they excel at and enjoy a challenge, and will look for regular training to help them achieve a rapid rise on the career ladder.
Having training and progression clearly embedded in their development plan (which, by the way, you should have for all your team!) will enable them to see where they fit in and where they can go in future.
They thrive on praise and regular feedback, and while this may mean you have to schedule some additional time in your diary with them, the benefits are that by engaging them now you will help develop them into tomorrow’s leaders.
Although it’s impossible to say individuals in each generational group behave identically, many attributes can be aligned to factors experienced by the different groups growing up at different times and with very different expectations of work, behaviour, outlook and life in general.
Therefore, embracing your multigenerational workforce, learning what makes them tick and how to get the best out of everyone will help you create a resilient and cohesive team who all bring their areas of expertise and ability to the group.
Employees expectations of what work should be, and what they expect to get out of their career are shifting. Company culture, ethos and career opportunity all play a large part in whether individuals stay or go.
And with Generation Z– the largest generational cohort of all time – about to hit the workplace, a savvy leader will want to equip themselves with the skills for handling each generation successfully.
If you would like to read more on this critical topic download our latest guide on how to motivate and engage your developing workforce here.
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