4 Tips for employers to help manage multiple Gens

After listening to both Gen X and Gen Y, the largest members of the workforce these days, we also need to realise that there are still Baby Boomers in the mix, and Gen Z has began its entrance.

This unprecedented multigenerational workplace presents many new challenges for managers. The task of figuring out how to put together teams that not only work together, but will produce results.

“Like many of my peers, I realise the workforce I’m responsible for today looks less and less like the workforce I joined in the 1980s,” wrote James Pearson of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in a Business Insider Australia article on Jan. 22, 2018. “As my career progressed and I took on more responsibility, I learned to manage, but the teams which my generation are responsible for now are quite different from those we were trained to lead.”

He continues, “A lot of the things I’ve learned about managing these diverse teams I’ve learnt through doing — through trial and error — and frankly, that hasn’t always been the best for the people I’ve led and the organisations I’ve worked for. This experience, coupled with what I’m seeing today, tells me more people in management positions in Australia need to be equipped for the challenges and opportunities of managing a multigenerational workforce.”

To keep with the theme of the month, I put together 4 tips for working with all the generations.

1. Overcome Stereotypes

While we seek more information on different generations to help us understand themes better, all generations are still individuals. First and foremost, do your best to rid stereotypes from the office. From managers who do the hiring to the newest and youngest team member, no one is immune from having the occasional stereotype come to mind.

Someone being “too old” to figure out a new project management app, or not putting a person on a team because he or she probably won’t rise to the occasion due to being “young and inexperienced.”

But the proof is in the report…

That is, a report by the University of Zurich, called “The Impact of Aging and Age Diversity on Company Performance,” found age diversity positively impacts productivity, especially for companies which need innovative and creative problem solvers.

Keep in mind, though, managers and other leadership set the tone so one of the best ways to keep stereotypes out of the office is by stopping it at the top. If managers keep an open mind and are seen as innovative and forward thinking when it comes to cross generational hiring and managing, then it’s likely your teams will follow suit.

2. Respect

Everyone just wants respect, right? But consider that each age group probably views respect differently. (It’s never simple!)

Baby Boomers feel respected when you ask for their opinion and their help, want them to join a team or sit down with them one-on-one. On the flip side, Gen X wants their time respected—less unnecessary meetings and tasks, more time to get the job done. They are the original generation of “find a work/life balance.”

Millennials (or Gen Y), instead, like to be heard and involved in making decisions. If that’s happening, they will feel respected.

And finally, Gen Z views respect at work as being trusted to get the work done; being told what to do and allowing them to do it.

3. Embrace the Differences

With all these different generations working side by side, managers should play to each team members’ strengths when they put together groups for projects.

It might mean that an older Baby Boomer member knows the client really well and can weigh in on how best to meet their needs. The Gen Y member, however, might be able to deliver the fastest way to place orders or input sales for the quarter.

Understanding the different ways that each team member may bring to the table will enable leaders to build the best multi-generational teams.

4. Cross Generational Communication

Obviously, one of the biggest issues in the multi-generational workforce is technology—whether it’s how quickly someone can adapt, the overuse of texting instead of talking to people or perhaps not using technology enough (for example, having a meeting when an email would have worked).

Part of the technology issue boils down to communication and the different ways that each generation prefers.

But just because technology might help improve our efficiency and productivity, it doesn’t mean that all communication should happen that way. Nor is that what every generation wants.

According to a June 4, 2018 post on the Staff Management blog, “Don’t jump the gun on overusing technology; members of all generations still see the value in more personal contact. While you may want your organization to be on the cutting edge, employees who aren’t yet trained on new applications might feel left out while others could miss the personal touch of an in-person conversation.”