5 Ways to Manage Your Multigenerational Workforce

Human Resource Management

This article was originally published by Vital Learning

Closeup portrait of a successful business team laughing together

Managing a multigenerational workforce can be quite the task for business leaders. Before I dive into my list, however, I think it’s important to lay out who exactly I’m talking about when I mention each generation. For our purposes, the table below lays out who is in each generation:

 

GenerationBirth Years
Gen Z2000-present
Millennials1980-2000
Gen X1965-1979
Baby Boomers1946-1964
Silent Generation1925-1945

 

Finding a balance between these generations in the workplace can be a daunting challenge for some managers. How do you appeal to Millennial team members while making Baby-boomers still feel valued? How do you prepare for Gen Z entering the workforce without losing sight of the preferences that your Gen Xers hold? By being a dynamic leader, and leveraging the strengths of each of these generations, effective managers can turn what seems like an obstacle into a competitive advantage. Here are some tips to do just that.

1: Avoid stereotypes, and instead ask questions

Although some attitudes and preferences are common within generations, it’s important to remember that people are people, and they aren’t defined by when they were born. It’s easy to fall into the trap of judging employees by the actions of their peers, or what pop-culture tells you they prefer. For instance, there’s a good chance that one of your team members from the Baby Boomer generation can run circles around some of your millennials in terms of computer literacy, even though the latter is a “digital native”. Instead of assigning tasks sol based on age and perceived ability, make a conscious effort to understand your employees on a deeper level, and keep an open line of communication to ensure that they have opportunities to display their strengths and weaknesses.

2: Leverage the strengths that each generation holds

Multigenerational workforce

From the depth of institutional knowledge that the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers hold, to the modern and fresh perspective of Gen Z, each generation of workers comes with its inherent strengths. When combined effectively, business leaders have a wealth of unique outlooks to help them make high-level decisions. If you’ve noticed that some of your millennial employees are apt at using social media and making online connections, assign them tasks which play to these strong suits. If your Baby Boomer employees tend to be better at speaking on the phone with a particular client base due to age-similarities and more experience with phone conversations, have them take care of those tasks.

The reason that a multi-generational workforce is at such a competitive advantage, is that there’s a wider range of skills and perspectives to draw from. By creating a culture of open communicationbetween leaders and team members, these strengths can be highlighted and used to the advantage of the team as a whole.

3: Lean-in to diversity when it comes to building teams

It’s been well-documented that diversity in personalities makes for more effective teams. The reason behind this, is that team members naturally gravitate towards tasks better suited towards their preferences. The more diverse the team is, the more specialization there will be within that team. By forming multigenerational teams as a leader, you can avoid some level of team member clashing due to multiple parties feeling that they are the best one for that particular task, when there’s already someone who has chosen it.

4: Try to prevent “generational silos”

Multigenerational workplace

Even something as simple as a seating arrangement can have a massive affect the performance of a workplace. Although it’s important to have departments and execs sit near each other for logistical and strategic reasons, it’s crucial that your employees have the opportunity to associate with those they might not be working with directly as well. If a college-aged intern has the opportunity to converse with a Senior Vice President, they could learn some things about the functions of the business they rarely get an inside look at. By having an open seating arrangement, and allowing employees to have some freedom in terms of desk assignments, business leaders can create a more cohesive organization which learns from itself at a deeper level.

One of the most impactful skills that any team member can have, is the ability to communicate up. With generational silos often come departmental and functional silos, which hinder this free-flow of communication between teams.

5: Be flexible when it comes to the way you lead

Not every employee is responsive to the same type of leadership style. Since the multigenerational workforce contains so many different perspectives on things such as professional development, career goals, autonomy of work, and responsiveness to authority, it’s important to adapt to the individuals you’re leading. In order to leverage these different perspectives, managers with a multigenerational workforce should be open to change, and responsive to the feedback they receive from team members. This isn’t to say that leaders shouldn’t be principled in the way they operate, but even a small bit of flexibility can go a long way.

Above all, communication is key

In order to fully leverage the competitive advantage that is a multigenerational workforce, strong company culture is a necessity. Without transparency between teams and psychological safety within the workplace, it’s all but impossible to maintain a leadership style which suits these different generations.

Comprehensive, and consistent communication training can help ensure that your multigenerational workforce is operating at its full potential. Managers who have effective communication within their multigenerational teams have a far easier time dealing with common workplace issues as they arise.

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