Take a couple of minutes today to think about your workforce. Chances are high you’re envisioning a diverse group of people that span multiple generations. You’re not alone. For the first time in U.S. history the workforce is comprised of four generations, and that will jump to five within the next year. Between generational stereotypes, shifts in how companies operate, and differing communication preferences, effectively managing the many viewpoints isn’t a simple task and tention will inevitably arise.
While some managers could look at this as a stressor and issue in the workplace, forward-thinking managers view it as a unique opportunity to enhance productivity. Those who create a respectful environment will likely experience a more dynamic culture and expect to see a stronger bottom line.
Don’t Play up the Stereotypes
It’s important to lead your team based on what works best for them, not lead by assumptions. While it’s a good idea to understand basic generational differences; decisions should be made based on real needs, not sweeping generalizations. Unsure what your employees want? Just ask! They’ll be happy to answer.
Avoid a One-size-fits-all Approach & Actively Lead Your Team
Actively leading a team means monitoring them, engaging with them, and challenging and disciplining when needed. The more engaged you are with your teams, the better they will perform.
In any organization, there are certain structures that must be in place for all employees. However, when it comes to managing a multi-generational workforce, there’s a level of flexibility and willingness to embrace change required. What works for one team may not work for another, and it can take time to develop a strategy that truly works. Get to know the people on your team and understand their preferences, work styles, and motivations. With small teams it’s easier to touch base individually, with larger groups that level of personalization isn’t possible; you can use surveys or host a series of meetings.
Encourage Cross-generational Mentoring
Younger and older generations can mentor one another in unique ways. Develop a mentoring program where younger employees can teach others how to leverage technology to boost business results and older generations can provide mentoring around specific skillsets or business communication.
Accommodate Personal Needs and Career Aspirations
Employees of different generations are at different stages in their lives and want different things out of their career. When making accommodations, the focus should be on the results employees produce rather than how they get there. If making a small change to accommodate a worker’s need results in better production, without negatively affecting anyone else, then it’s a positive. For example, some employees might value new experiences and learning opportunities, while others are less interested in any rigorous training or seeking new experience but value flexibility.
There’s a great benefit for any organization to appreciate the talents of the generations in our workforce. Each brings a unique perspective to the collective that ultimately creates a stronger team. It’s up to you as the hiring manager to harness these talents and provide the appropriate environment, incentives, and motivation to increase performance and maintain interest levels.