February 13, 2018
Most offices today feature a multigenerational workforce, with employees ranging from Baby Boomers approaching retirement to Generation Z’ers, the latest entrants into the job market. As a manager, one of your responsibilities is to ensure that all these generations work well together.
Here are six tips for leading a team that spans the generations:
Understand the different generations. To effectively lead a multigenerational workforce, you need to have a better idea of each group’s common traits. Keep in mind, though, that it’s never a good idea to stereotype an entire generation, as there will always be overlaps and exceptions. For example, some Boomers run circles around their younger colleagues when it comes to the latest communication apps. And while understanding the general attributes of each generation is helpful, you should tailor your style to each employee’s goals, interests, and needs.
Accentuate the positive. Embrace a glass-half-full mindset when it comes to the generations and their unique traits. Too often, managers see differences as negatives, but strong teams feature diverse perspectives, experiences, and insights. This mix leads to many benefits, including improved products and service levels, greater collaboration, fewer misunderstandings, better communication, and a higher retention rate.
As a leader in your organization, celebrate the differences of your multigenerational workforce. When you take the time to highlight each staff member’s impact on a specific project, your workers will grow to appreciate, rather than bemoan, this diversity.
Vary your management approach. In general, each demographic has a preferred and nonpreferred way of working, learning, and conveying information. The greatest difference among the generations, according to CFOs in a January 2017 Robert Half Management Resources survey, is in workplace communication.
You can address differing preferences by taking a multipronged approach to communicating skills training, change management, and even employee appreciation efforts. Diversifying your methods will take time but foster greater employee buy-in. Not sure what strategies work best with which employees? All you have to do is ask.
Promote camaraderie. If you’re a manager who tends to frown on socializing, you may want to rethink your stance. While gossip and too much chitchat hamper productivity, giving employees room to build rapport and connect with each other will result in stronger work relationships. What’s more, a report on workplace happiness from Robert Half and Happiness Works, “The Secrets of the Happiest Companies and Employees,” found that employees who have solid on-the-job friendships are more satisfied than those who don’t.
Encourage employees to learn from one another. Traditional mentorships are an excellent means of preparing less-tenured employees for advanced roles. But keep in mind that newer professionals also have knowledge and insights to share with their veteran colleagues. Consider establishing a reverse mentoring program so that Boomers and Gen X’ers can benefit from the skills and perspectives of their Millennial colleagues.
Make flexibility part of your corporate culture. In a way, it’s true: Millennials are disrupting the workplace, but only the aspects of keeping rigid office hours, following buttoned-up dress codes, and being physically present in the office. All the essentials of a dynamic company—motivation, commitment to deadlines, and delivering the best service and product possible—remain very much a part of this generation’s DNA.
As a leader in your company, capitalize on this trend rather than force Millennials to follow “how things have always been done.” Trust employees, regardless of their seniority, and give people the freedom to make good decisions. Rather than making them earn management’s trust before they’re allowed perks like DIY scheduling and remote work, treat all employees equitably.
Managing several generations at work has a reputation for being challenging, and for good reason—each group has its own definitions of work and success and approaches the workplace with differing expectations and motivations. But instead of dreading or, worse, ignoring employees’ disparate experiences and styles, take advantage of their complementary backgrounds, skills, and know-how to strengthen your team and your company.