Managing Generation X and Y

Today’s workforce consists of four distinct generations. Each brings its own set of behaviors, demands, expectations and values. Additionally, each generation brings its own set of stereotypes and myths. In today’s age-diverse workplace, one management style does not work for all.

Generation Traditionalists Baby Boomers Gen X Millennials
 Birth Years  1922-1945  1946-1964  1965-1980  1981-2000

In general, Gen X employees brings challenges as well as new ideas into the labor market. Generation X employees want (and demand) benefits (such as stock option plans, health care insurance, etc.) and time off (paid vacation, sick days, personal leave days). They tend to be less motivated by promises of overtime pay and more motivated by personal satisfaction with their jobs. The number one benefit for Generation X employees is development and training. They want to grow in their jobs and learn new skills.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, Generation X employees do not anticipate staying with one job or company throughout their entire career. They have seen their parents laid off. Many of them have grown up in divorced family situations. They expect to change jobs as they seek employment that offers them both better benefits and more opportunity for professional growth as well as personal fulfillment.

Gen X employees want, and expect, their employers to hear what they have to say. They have an interest in understanding the “big picture” for the company and how this influences their employment and growth. They are less likely to accept a “because I said so” attitude from a supervisor.

What are some of the things that an employer/manager can do to motivate these employees for maximum productivity? Five general areas come to mind.

Take time to be personal. Thank an employee for doing a good job (in person, in writing, or both). Listen to what employees have to say, both in a one-on-one situation and in a group meeting.

Encourage employee growth. Provide feedback on the employee’s performance. Be specific; mention a particular situation or activity. Make sure the employee understands company expectations. Involve the employee in the decision-making process whenever possible. Let the employee know what happened to the idea or suggestion he or she submitted. Give an employee room to do the job without unnecessary restrictions. Pay for employees to attend workshops and seminars; offer on-site classes where employees can learn new skills or improve upon old ones. Most jobs contain a certain amount of routine, day-to-day work; offer employees a chance to work on something in which they have a special interest, something that will challenge them.



Reward and promote people.
Recognize an employee who has done an outstanding job by giving an unexpected reward, such as a day off or a free dinner for the employee and his family at a nice restaurant. Do not penalize an employee who is doing such a great job in the present situation that you do not want him or her to move to a new position. The employee who deserves a promotion and does not get it will very likely start to look elsewhere for the opportunity to move upward.

Help employees understand how the business operates. Employees need to experience a sense of ownership. Encourage this by providing them with information about new products, advertising campaigns, strategies for competing, etc. Let each employee see how he or she fits into the plan. Help employees see how meeting their goals contribute to meeting the organization’s goals.

Build morale. Have an open work environment; encourage initiative and welcome new ideas. Don’t be afraid to spend a few dollars for such things as free coffee for employees, M&M’s or ordering a meal for employees who have to work overtime. Take time to speak with an employee’s spouse or family when you meet them and let them know you appreciate the employee. Remember, Generation X employees look for more than just fair pay: they need and want personal acknowledgment and job satisfaction.

The Millennials Are Coming

The babies of the baby-boomers are now in the workforce, and they’re not playing by the old rules. They are tech savvy; they multitask with ease; and they don’t plan to stay long on a job that doesn’t quickly recognize their unique talents. They want a job that deserves them, and not vice versa. It’s an attitude that’s turning corporate America inside out to figure out how to keep their young workers happy and on the job. Morley Safer reports.

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