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5 tips to manage a multigenerational workforce

Alexandre Diard

Times are changing and the workforce needs to be dynamic in order to keep up. This is why a majority of vibrant workforces are made up of employees from diverse backgrounds and generations. They all have one thing in common: the need to engage and feel respected despite being a multigenerational workforce.

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How to manage a multigenerational workforce

HR managers now face increased challenges when it comes to retaining and managing a multigenerational workforce. They need to be familiar with and develop guiding principles that will enable them to accommodate the varying work styles of the employees.

But despite the unique challenges and opportunities that today’s multigenerational workforce presents to management, they are virtually indispensable. Every generation brings their incomparable strengths to the table. But as Millennials approach the age where they get promoted to managerial positions, the potential for disagreements at work escalates. Therefore, the workforce needs to be well managed from the initial point to avoid new job anxiety

There will soon be five generations of workers in the American workforce. They are:

- Veterans : people born before World War II

- Baby boomers: individuals born between 1946 and 1964

- Generation X: people born between 1965 and the1980s

- Generation Y or boomerangs or millennials: children of baby boomers, born after 1980

- Generation Z: loosely, people born between 1995 to 2010. 

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Each of these groups come with distinct attributes, work ethics, values, etc. which are generally based on the experience of that specific generation and bring something different to the workforce.

For instance, veterans and baby boomers bring decades of work as well as life experiences with them to the workforce which should not be taken lightly. But Generation X workers believe they have paid their dues and are therefore qualified to take a position of authority as a result of hard work.

But then again, today’s work environment is suited for those who possess and employ the use of technological skills to enhance collaboration and boost flexibility. The issue is further aggravated when older employees are managed by younger ones. This is another sore spot which could rub the older employees up the wrong way. Millennials tend to feel restrained by these older co-workers who may be resentful towards them.

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Problems in the workforce

These problems in the workforce come about when Millennials are assigned to high positions. The present system of meritocracy only favors Millennials, not the older generations. This disruption to the organizational chart can bring about problems within your company.

An executive development corporation known as Future Workplace, in conjunction with The Career Network (Beyond), carried out a multi-generational leadership survey a few years ago. The study revealed that an increasing number of Millennials are placed in charge of Generation X and Baby Boomers respectively. The shift in leadership in the workforce, according to the respondents of the survey, poses a significant threat to the future of the work environment of the organization.

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Out of the survey’s 5,771 respondents, 83% of them have noticed or seen Millennials managing both Generation X as well as Baby Boomers in their places of work. One-third of Millennial respondents indicated that managing the older generations is difficult.

However, 45% of Generation X and Baby Boomers who gave their responses respectively believed that Millennials do not have enough managerial experience to handle any position of worth within a company. They stated that this lack of adequate experience or knowledge could have dire impacts on the workforce and the culture of the organization.

There are still numerous opportunities for every generation to work mutually in the workplace. Nevertheless, it is essential for every organization to integrate proper support, mentoring, and training which will help to prevent whatever conflicts may arise between these generations of workers.

Here are five tips to manage a multigenerational workforce efficiently and smoothly:

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Set clear expectations

You can create different teams made up of members from different generations working towards a common objective. But to enhance their productivity, you should empower your workforce to navigate their strengths as well as their differences in order to meet their goal.

As the manager of multigenerational employees, you have access to a large pool of skills to pull from. Each of them comes with various strengths, skills, and experiences. Therefore, it is up to you to set clear expectations so that every worker is empowered, though this can be a challenge.

Encourage every member of your workforce to operate at his or her optimal level and ensure they follow a pre-designed roadmap that helps them achieve their goals in good time.

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Identify strengths and weaknesses in your workforce

Every generation comes with inherent strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Millennials are not only quick on their feet but tech-savvy as well. These are valuable attributes but relying too much on technology can make them hasty in decision-making which could harm their successes. Baby Boomers are more cautious, perhaps since they are not as comfortable with technology.

Being aware of these differences will help you work out the best method or approach to take when working with members of every generation within the workforce. This will help you determine which tasks to delegate or assign to which employee.

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Recognize different work styles and values

Assess the styles and work values of each generation and figure out the best work options that will be suitable for them and the workforce as a whole. Baby Boomers do better when they work in teams; Generation X workers can adapt quickly to new terrain or scenarios while Millennials flourish in a creative and positive work culture.

Handle every situation with awareness and understanding

One of the key attributes that you need when it comes to addressing or preventing conflict in the workforce is awareness. This is vital, especially if it requires communication between team members, there are differences in communication style or the use of technology. These elements can hinder or benefit members of the workforce depending on how they are managed.

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For instance, Baby Boomers require lots of communication. Generation X workers rely on e-mailing as a means of communication while Millennials consider this system of communication as a distraction. The style of Millennials is different. Just look at the speed at which they respond or text on social media platforms.

It shows that millennials always go straight to the point and this could pose a challenge to older generations.

You should learn how to navigate around these generational and cultural differences in the workforce which may not come easily without mentoring or training. This will help you learn how to defuse any generational differences so that each person understands why the other individual is behaving in a certain way.

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Establish bonus or recognition programs that reward longevity and productivity within the workforce

One of the most common things that happens within a majority of organizations today comprises recognizing and rewarding employees based mostly on how long they have been with the firm.

But in a workplace with multigenerational employees, this could send negative signals to younger and highly productive employees that their contributions are not valued as much as that of their older colleagues.

This is why it is imperative for employers to create multiple incentive strategies that will accommodate both old and young employees so that each individual will have equal opportunities when it comes to receiving rewards and recognition for their contribution to the progress of the company.

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