Navigating Multiple Generations
Most people think of innovation in the workplace with regard to technological advancements or streamlining operations. But one area in which it is just as important to be innovative is management. Effective managers and business owners are innovative in the ways they treat and engage their personnel.
There are many different aspects of being an innovative manager, but one area of growing importance is managing a workplace that features a never-before-seen generational diversity. Workplace diversity is often thought of as the gender, race and possibly education level of employees. But in today’s workforce, four generations of employees often work together.
This is in part due to workers staying on the job longer. A recent Gallup poll has found that the average age for retirement is 62, the highest since Gallup first asked this question in 1991. Similarly, the average age American workers expect to retire has reached 66, up from 63 in 2002.
Each generation brings unique strengths and qualities, such as a preferred communication style, desired benefits, or specific design of the physical workspace. These differences can be an asset, but they also can lead to misunderstanding, conflict and miscommunication if managed improperly. Businesses succeed when there is a cohesive environment, so managers must be aware that a successful management method for one generation might not be as effective for others, and should always be thinking of innovative ways to connect with employees.
While no two employees are the same, there are broad generalizations for each generation:
Traditionalists (born prior to 1945) may prefer a top-down chain of command and value acknowledgement for their experience and work.
Baby Boomers (1946-1964), meanwhile, often are viewed as competitive workaholics who are optimistic, results-oriented and question authority.
Members of Generation X (1965-1980) are often characterized as independent self-starters with entrepreneurial traits who can be loyal employees, but are not as attached to their employers as previous generations.
Generation Y (1981-2000), the Millennials, is comprised of non-conformists who are collaborative, open-minded and socially conscious. Since they usually get what they want, this group can be demanding, and expects flexible hours and work-life balance.
Given these differences, there are several ways organizations can help these groups work better together and stay motivated.
Each generation has its own preferred method of communication. Employers should consider accommodating each group’s style, whether face-to-face meetings or text messages, and mixing face-to-face meetings with emails.
It is important to find the right motivation for each group. While seasoned employees may value monetary incentives, younger employees might prefer time off from work. Giving workers the option to choose their incentive can help avoid potential clashes.
Performance evaluations should be considered on a more individual level, rather than using a generic one-size-fits-all approach or form. Certain generations may be stronger in specific areas of job performance, and others might be weaker. Personalizing evaluations helps to ensure that companies are maximizing their employees’ strengths and weaknesses.
With a growing number of Millennials entering the workforce, companies should re-evaluate their recruiting methods and employee benefits packages. While salary is important, attracting top talent from today’s generation might also require a comfortable environment, flexible hours and the option to telecommute.
The workplace should be a learning environment, and establishing a mentoring program allows older employees to share their wisdom and suggestions while giving younger employees an opportunity to teach about technology.
Most employees want to contribute and feel good about what they have accomplished at work, and all companies have the responsibility to help employees understand their diversity and find common ground to respect each other and work together.
Brady Sweet is a district manager and Jeff Holder is a Certified Business Performance Advisor for Insperity’s Orlando office. For more information, call (800) 465-3800 or visit Insperity.com.