We’ve spent the last three weeks exploring the different generations at play in the workforce; now it’s time to figure out how to possibly manage and accommodate them all. We’ll also take a sneak peek at what Generation Z is shaping up to be like.
If you want to recap, you can read up on the 3 generations here:
Baby Boomers are very work-centric and expect the younger generations to pay their dues. Generation X is more results-oriented and independent; they are ready to take on leadership positions from Boomers. Generation Y are ambitious and tech-savvy and have high expectations of what a modern workplace should be like.
Employers are facing an ageing workforce with retention becoming a growing issue. Boomers are beginning to retire and the younger generations are less prone to long-term employer loyalty. This is creating a ‘knowledge gap’ as the pool of experienced senior workers gets smaller and a lack of successors in the pipeline. Transfer of expertise while adapting to new workstyle preferences is going to be a big focus for managers in the years to come.
MANAGING THREE GENERATIONS AT WORK
While there’s no silver bullet for managing multiple generations in the workforce, there are a few different strategies managers can employ. The Washington Street Journal has compiled a neat How-To guide on their site. Here’s our snapshot of some of their top recommendations:
Send your managers to class so they can learn to recognize generational differences and adapt. It’s important that managers change rather than trying to change the staff.
Facilitate mentoring between different aged employees to encourage more cross-generational interaction. Younger employees should learn to seek the experience and wisdom offered by senior employees. Older employees should learn to be open to the fresh perspectives offered by younger employees.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Offer different working options like telecommuting and working offsite. Focus on the results employees produce rather than on how they get it done. This will give employees some flexibility on how they want to work and put everybody, regardless of where they spent most of their time working, on the same scale to measure success. Different generations of employees will be in different stages of life and may require that employers offer some scheduling flexibility to manage their personal time. But maintain parity so other employees don’t feel alienated. Boomers who are thinking of retirement, for example, may want to cut the number of hours they work in exchange for reduced pay. Gen Xers who need to leave work early to attend a parent/teacher function can agree to make up lost time at another date. Support Gen Y who may want to pursue another degree part time and extend the same educational opportunities to other employees.
Different Training & Communication Styles
Accommodate different learning styles. Baby Boomers may favor more traditional and static training methods like Power Point presentations and handbooks, while younger workers may gravitate towards more interactive, technology-based forms of learning.
Create recognition programs. Even simple gestures like a pat on the back or positive email congratulations can help boost productivity with Gen Xers. Boomers may seek status so may respond best to an office-wide memo that announces that they are meeting or exceeding their goals. Gen Y may seek validation and approval so will appreciate increased responsibility and additional training opportunities. To this end, Gen Y may also prefer more frequent employee reviews.
Don’t Assume it’s Generational
Don’t confuse character issues like immaturity, laziness or intractability with generational traits. Whereas Boomers may see a 60-hour work week as a prerequisite to achieving success, many hard-working Gen Yers may prefer a more balanced life that includes reasonable working hours–with occasional bouts of overtime–and weekends off. The latter may also voluntarily choose to make up the time in unstructured settings like working at a Starbucks on weekends.
This last one is probably one of the most important to remember. Generational characteristics are broad generalizations. It’s important to take into account the individual and manage them personally. Not all behaviours they exhibit will be typical of their generation, nor will all the traits of a generation be typical in one person.
ENTER GENERATION Z (Born 2001 – Present)
If it wasn’t enough to wrap your head around Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y, let’s take a look at the youngest generation around: Generation Z.
Still in their formative years it’s still too early to tell just what kind of impact Generation Z is going to have on the workforce. Even the starting year of this generation is still up for debate. One thing though is certain, this generation of ‘digital natives’ will be the most technologically advanced generation of them all. Having grown up in a world where Apple is the brand of their phone first and a fruit second, Gen Z has never known a world without the internet.
Gen Z are similar to Gen Y in that they are tech-savvy and enjoy diversity; however, they are unlikely to have the arguably lofty expectations of Gen Y. Gen Z have grown up in a time of economic hardship, terrorism and climate change. This is likely to make them more conservative in their outlook, but also place a higher value on making positive contributions to the world. With constant access to information, their learning is not limited to what is divulged through parents or elders. But this reliance on the internet for information may result in a greater emphasis on fast answers and not necessarily accurate ones.
The workforce will always be constantly changing as new generations come and go. The key for businesses who want to stand the test of time will be flexibility and openness to change. Be mindful of emerging trends without disregarding the needs of your employee base as a whole.
How has your company deal with multiple generations in the workforce? Let us know in the comments below.