Managing a multi-generational workforce

By 2025, three out of four employees will be millennials. Aswith every generation, millennials present new challenges and are oftenperceived as difficult. This isn’t really anything new. Baby boomers were justas irritated by Generation X entering the workforce, while they were in turn adisappointment to The Greatest Generation. Terrifyingly, soon people born inthe year 2000, or Gen Z, will be annoying the old guard in workplaces aroundthe world.  

As people work later and later into their old age, there isa good chance that many companies will find themselves with four generations ofemployees. Each group offers valuable experience and valid perspectives thatcan help businesses create innovative solutions. However, harnessing thesedisparate generations can be a challenge in itself, with each group havingdifferent expectations of a job and company, different ways of approachingtasks, and a different perception of the world.

Having people of all ages coming together can be fraught,but it doesn’t have to be. Firstly, forget about the idea that they will fitneatly into the general description of their age group. You’ll find olderpeople with an affinity for computer technology, and young people who can’teven turn one on. Young people who love gardening and crochet, 60-year-old’swho play Call of Duty to unwind.

Avoiding generational labels and adopting an individual-basedmanagement style will help get the most out of each person in your team. Everypersonality is different and where some people might respond to a moreconfrontational management style, others will react more positively to agentler one. Tailoring your approach to each employee will help you get to knowthem, which will in turn build a bond. No one wants to feel like other peopleare treated differently but likewise, no one likes getting the impression that theirmanager is attempting one of the six styles of management they were readingabout the night before.

Keeping generational tension to a minimum is based onfinding commonalities between different people. Providing opportunities forinteraction and friendship can be as simple as having a communal lunch spaceand providing regular chances for informal interaction is important. Low stressactivities, such as bowling or bowls, where people can spend time togetherwithout the barriers of job titles and department divisions, are good ways ofgetting people to interact in a social, obligation-free way.  Too many businesses get the social aspects oftheir workplace culture wrong, forcing people to interact in a company approvedmanner. The mandatory fun approach might unite your workforce, but more likelyagainst your management than in any positive way.

Whether an employee is fresh out of study or entering theirfourth decade of employment, one thing they all need, is to feel engaged in theirrole and have a sense of ownership about their work. Unrest in a workplace environmentoften has little to do with the age of co-workers and is based on not feelingvalued or respected. Ensuring that everyone has a chance to see their ideas andthoughts shape the culture and direction of a business is a powerful motivator. 

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