The workplace has changed in more ways than you may think. Offices now feature a broad range of diverse generations working together, including Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. Now more than ever, it’s vital to learn how to manage a multigenerational workforce.
You may think of this new reality as a challenge, but age diversity can actually be a boon to employee engagement and productivity. Here are some of the policy initiatives and workforce management software solutions that can make employing different generations a competitive advantage.
Understanding Generational Differences
To appreciate multigenerational differences, you need to understand the demographics of each generation.
Broadly, the generational lines break down as:
- Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964)
- Generation X (1965 – 1976)
- Millennials (1977 – 1997)
- Generation Z (1998 – today)
These date ranges may not be exact breakpoints, but they are an effective approximation.
Born in the post-World War II era, in a time of great optimism and economic growth, the Baby Boomer generation dominated the workforce throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s. Their efforts and influence contributed to the structures and policies that are now commonplace in many industries.
Although many Baby Boomers are at, or nearing, retirement age, they remain an important component of the workforce, particularly for mature companies, despite being outnumbered by younger generations in most workplaces.
This generation, born from the mid-1960s through to the late-1970s, grew up in a time of shifting social values and economic changes. Accounting for roughly 65 million people in the United States alone, this group is often considered more entrepreneurial than older generations, seeking personal fulfillment over company loyalty.
As more Generation Xers approach midlife, they continue to play a crucial role in the labor force, as an adaptable, pragmatic group that seeks independence and work-life balance.
Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are those born in the late 1970s onward. This group came of age in a cultural environment that was significantly different than previous generations. While some argue that this led to a broad sense of entitlement, millennials also are often characterized as team players who emphasize workplace loyalty and collaboration. Millenials generally seek jobs that allow them to balance their professional lives with their interests and personal lives.
This age group, composed of individuals born after 1998, make up the youngest employees in today’s workforce. Never having known life without abundant digital technology, Generation Z tends to possess advanced technology and multitasking skills. Their communication skills are usually honed through the use of social media, a significant difference from past generations.
Managing a Multigenerational Workforce
Multigenerational workforces offer many benefits, such as valuable insights and knowledge sharing between diverse groups. To take advantage of this opportunity organizations need to manage the potentially competing perspectives of several generational groups.
In the modern workplace, multiple generations of workers often occupy similar or overlapping roles. You need to think beyond the working conditions of a particular role and consider how different generations approach their professional development.
Different generations may have different workplace values and expectations. To keep a multigenerational workforce happy and productive, employers and HR professionals need to understand how these generational differences can affect an organization’s goals and decision making process. Any actions you take should promote fairness and reduce conflict or resentment among multigenerational workers.
For example, you may find that when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder, younger employees are more likely to expect promotions. Older generations, on the other hand, are more likely to wait their turn. You need to communicate promotion policies clearly with younger generations to avoid misunderstandings and continued employee satisfaction.
You should also be sensitive to diverse perspectives on cultural and social issues, otherwise the generational gap can become a point of friction between age groups. For many employers, it is imperative to develop policies to combat age-based stereotypes and age bias between employees of different ages.
Use Open Dialogue to Build Trust
When considering the employee experience, you should focus on occupational similarities over generational differences. Use clear, effective communication to build interpersonal connections. This approach helps ensure that workers at various life stages work together on common goals, while developing a deep understanding of the company culture.
HR leaders find ways to create an open dialogue. Your team members should feel they can ask questions freely without fear of offending co-workers, whether younger or older employees. You should create spaces where team members of various generations can have open discussion and receive regular feedback. Many organizations have already begun to see how improved communication is the best way to successfully manage generational differences.
Address the Presence of Older and Younger Generations During Onboarding
Another way to help multigenerational workers feel more comfortable is by expanding the onboarding process for new employees.
When cultivating a multigenerational team, you need to be upfront about workplace expectations and their implications for growth potential and job security. Also, the best managers let their teams know how they will measure performance, the potential rewards if teams increase productivity or solve challenging problems, and how they can accommodate different styles of working and communicating.
You’ll find an onboarding process like this helps prevent frustration and burnout, high turnover rates and low morale. It also lets employees know they are on the right professional path.
Implement New Workforce Management Software
The right workforce management software helps your managers maximize the strengths of each employee. Good management is about valuing people for who they are and what they do, not what generation they came from.
By embracing new technologies and new approaches, such as UKG workforce management consulting services, you can maximize the ROI of both salaried employees and hourly workers of all ages and skill sets.
By finding ways to better measure, manage and optimize employee performance, you can encourage and enable the diverse range of employees in your multigenerational workforce.