Managing A Multigenerational Workforce

As of 2021, today's workforce spans mainly four generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z, although there are five generational categories if you include the silent generation, which is mainly retired. Each generation has its own unique set of values and expectations, which applies to the workplace. As a leader, you have to take into account everyones' different values and needs.

Each generation has its values, needs, and expectations. 

Multigenerational workforces are no exception. Multigenerational means you have more than one group of workers in the workplace simultaneously with different age groups. Multigenerational workforces can create some challenges for managers and supervisors, but it also brings many benefits. This blog post will explore how to manage a multigenerational workforce while still keeping your employees engaged!

While managing a multigenerational workplace may be challenging, there are also many benefits to doing so. It's important to note that each age group will have its own set of characteristics and generational differences that need to be understood and respected to effectively manage a multigenerational workforce. You must understand as a leader that the work styles and communication styles of these different generations will simply not be the same. Technology and digital communication have played a significant role in the education and career development of younger generations. At the same time, older employees and those nearing retirement did not experience the same development opportunities.

Generations in Today's Workforce

Here is a simple breakdown of the different generations and some of their characteristics amongst the workplace:

Baby Boomers

While the silent generation was born before 1946, this generation was primarily born from 1946-1964. They are most well-known for being very disciplined, focused, and having a strong work ethic. Indeed shared some of the traits that Baby Boomers, also sometimes referred to as simply boomers, tend to have. They include:

  • Although they are among the older generations, they aren't yet fully retiring.
  • They value workplace visibility.
  • They are self-sufficient.
  • Baby boomers tend to pride themselves on decision-making skills.
  • They equate authority with experience.
  • A baby boomer is likely competitive and optimistic.
  • They define themselves by their jobs.

Generation X 

Generation X employees or Gen X'ers are significantly more independent than other generations and are understood to have introduced a true meaning to "work-life balance." Born 1965-1980, Gen X embraced technologydislikes being micromanaged, and is adaptable to change. This generation believes in diversity and inclusion as core values, all values that have also been passed on to millennials. BusinessNewsDaily described a few important characteristics of generation Xers as follows:

  • Value work-life balance and flexible work hours
  • Flexible
  • Adapt to new technologies
  • Resilient
  • Direct and open to feedback
  • Highly collaborative

You can see how different generations have different personalities and values. Since they are all going through their unique life stages, HR professionals, leaders, and supervisors should understand how these multigenerational teams can work together in harmony while actively working to avoid age-based stereotypes.

keeping multigenerational workforce engaged

Millennials

Born roughly from 1981-1994, Millennials currently make up the largest portion of the workforce, with slightly over 71 million as of 2020. Since they represent such a significant piece of today's multigenerational workforce, we've covered Millennials more in-depth on several other blog posts, such as embracing the millennial mindset and how the millennial workforce will change HR forever. Also known as Generation Y, but most commonly referred to as millennials, here are ten characteristics of these team members, according to Indeed.

  1. Values meaningful motivation
  2. Challenges the hierarchy status-quo
  3. Places importance on relationships with superiors
  4. Intuitive knowledge of technology
  5. Open and adaptive to change
  6. Places importance on tasks rather than time
  7. Passion for learning
  8. Openly receptive to feedback and recognition
  9. Free-thinking and creative
  10. Values social interactions in the workplace

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Generation Z

Gen Z employees are best known for being very tech-savvy and well-connected to digital communications, social media, technology, and one other. Gen Z was born mainly between 1995 and 2015, meaning these younger employees account for 32% of the global population. (2019) Unlike previous generations, Gen Z employees grew up exclusively with constant access to technology. Like those from Generation Z, younger employees are very focused on the importance of diversity, equality, and inclusion. This generation will be crucial in helping to end age bias, which has significant benefits on the entire workplace culture.

Benefits of Generational Differences in Your Workforce

First of all, you get the best out of every generation in your workplace because you're able to bring together all their different skills, strengths, and experiences. Considering that Gen z and the younger generations are more tech-savvy, while Baby Boomers are traditionally more hands-on, this allows you to approach projects from multiple angles! Furthermore, multigenerational workplaces tend to have higher productivity than single generational workplaces, according to CIPD research. You may notice less conflict between multiple generations when they work side-by-side because there is more understanding across age groups.

Each team member has great potential but having such diversity makes teamwork much stronger! Multigenerational workforces can also be beneficial when it comes to creativity and innovation- each generation offers its perspective, which allows teams to come up with new ideas and ways of doing things.

gen z millennials multigenerational

Because everyone brings something unique from their generational perspective, multigenerational workplaces can respond quickly and effectively to changes in the market. When different generations work together, there is a synergy that takes place- it's almost like a collective intelligence where the sum of all the parts creates something greater than what any one individual could have done on their own.

Workplace Challenges with Different Age Groups

Of course, there can be some challenges when managing a multigenerational workforce. However, with proper planning and communication, these challenges can be overcome. One challenge might be how to keep employee engagement high when there are such big differences in values and needs among the multiple generations. Managers need to find ways to appeal to each generation while considering what is important to the entire workforce concerning age diversity.

Many organizations will wonder how they can accomplish this and establish mutual respect among different generations while still staying true to their company culture. This can be accomplished by offering flexible working arrangements, social events, or training. Multigenerational workplaces can provide more opportunities for workers of different ages, but it is the leaders' job to make sure they use these opportunities wisely!

The Challenge With Managing Generational Gaps

There will always be generational gaps in every workplace, no matter how hard managers try to bridge them by offering special benefits and perks. However, multigenerational workforces can allow you to harness this collective intelligence, so your business is better equipped than ever before- not only with skills on staff but also knowledge about what works best when catering to employees from all age groups. Multigenerational workplaces have never been more important because not only do they ensure a strong workforce now, but they set up future generations for success as well! If your company wants to set itself up for success in the future, you must learn how to manage a multigenerational workforce now.

There are certainly age-based stereotypes that exist when you have such a broad range of team members in various life stages. Some may be grandparents, while others are in college. Ageism is certainly real, and while often it is done unintentionally, it is still discrimination. Such a large generational gap can cause unwanted friction between younger generations and your more mature employees. This can be addressed appropriately and effectively by setting clear expectations and goals for workers, providing feedback regularly, and ensuring that there is a culture of respect amongst every employee at every level, regardless of age. 

It is important to remember that every generational group has its strengths and weaknesses, so it is not wise to generalize if you're tasked with leading a multigenerational workforce. What works for one generation might not work for another, so managers and leaders at every level need to be creative to keep all employees actively engaged. Multigenerational workplaces are the future of business, so it is important for every company to understand how to manage them effectively!

Multigenerational workplaces are the future of every business, so it is important for leadership at every company to understand how to manage effectively.

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Teach Your Leaders to Manage a Multigenerational Workforce

In conclusion, a multigenerational workforce has many benefits and can be successfully managed with the right tools and mindset. By understanding the different values and needs of each generation, managers can create a productive workplace and engage all employees. The modern workplace is multigenerational - so every company needs to learn how to manage them effectively and have a deep understanding of the proper communication style and job responsibilities of each of the different generations in their labor force.

In the "Leading Multigenerational Workforce" training from A Better Leader, you can help your leaders inspire and motivate workers of differing ages and backgrounds to bring their individual knowledge and expertise together for an even more productive future! Here's a preview of what this lesson is all about:

Beyond mere tolerance of differing viewpoints, your leaders will understand how their team can innovate, problem solve, and excel simply by taking advantage of everyones' individual strengths. It's never been more important to ensure that your workplace champions diversity, equity, and inclusion, and that includes multiple generations and takes teamwork. Your organization can benefit greatly from leadership who understands how to connect with their teams and can champion DEI, which starts with keeping your multigenerational workforce engaged.

Your organization can benefit greatly from leadership who understands how to connect with their teams and can champion #diversity #equity and #inclusion

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About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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