One size does not fit all: Multi-generational management

1st August 2017

Today’s workplace is comprised of a range of different generations who see and experience the world in their own unique way. As such, they all have their own needs and making sure you cater to all of them as a manager can be a difficult task.

Getting to grips with generational differences and having a firm understanding of what they value and how they work is essential for effective management. To simplify it for you, we’ve collated practical advice on how to keep Gen X, Millennials and Baby Boomers working hard and happy in the workplace.

What workers think of these generations in the workplace?

The characteristics of Baby Boomers:

Born between the mid-1940s and 1960s, Baby Boomers are the oldest generation in the workplace. Brought up in the time after the Second World War, this generation were the first to reap the benefits of a peaceful world and, as such, they’re considered to be an extremely conscientious generation.

The first generation to be given the opportunity to excel, Baby Boomers often define themselves by their work achievements. They’re motivated by achieving goals and are extremely career focused, with 80% of participants in a recent survey believing that Baby Boomers display an executive presence.

Growing up during a time of reform Baby Boomers were brought up believing they could make a big difference to the world. This makes them an extremely independent and self-reliant cohort in the workplace. As the older generation, they’re often looked up to and set as an example in the companies they work for.

The characteristics of Gen X:

Sandwiched between the two larger demographics of the Baby Boomers and Millennials, this small generation got the best experience of its two neighbours. Born between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s, Gen X brought a whole new dimension to the workplace.

Seen by 77% of the aforementioned survey’s participants as tech savvy, they were thought of as revolutionary by Baby Boomers. They’re widely seen as collaborative workers (70%), relationship builders (72%) and the most productive generation in the workplace (73%).

This generation may be smaller, but they definitely have a huge influence on the modern workplace.

The characteristics of Millennials:

Millennials, born between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, will make up the majority of your young employees. They grew up in a time of economic prosperity and were raised with high expectations and soaring ambitions. However, by the time it came to joining the working world, the UK was in the midst of a recession, making it very difficult to find jobs and make good of those ambitions. So what is working with Millennials like?

Their enthusiasm came out on top at 68% in a US survey of all the three key generations. 67% of participants agreed they make good brand ambassadors, more than the other generations.

Motivated by salary (60%), recognition (29%) and a work life balance (29%), Millennials aren’t just about achievement. Two thirds have also stated that the opportunity to learn a new skill set is a top factor when considering a job. A further 41% said that they would move jobs to work for a highly skilled manager.

This generation appears to have a wandering eye when it comes to finding work, so it may be important to ensure the needs of your Millennials are met. Over half (54%) say they are looking for new professional opportunities, more than either Generation X or Baby Boomers.

Who are the Xennials?

Xennials are micro-generation whose categorisation is still up for debate. Born between 1977 and 1983, they’re seen as a subset of the population who share characteristics with both Gen X and millennials. They’ve grown up with technology, but are still old enough to remember a time when we weren’t as dependent upon it. Unlike millennials, they didn’t have unmitigated access to the internet. When working with people who fall into this age group, it’s important to remember that they will likely respond to management techniques that work for millennials and Gen X, so it’s important to tailor your approach.

So how do you manage all these different generations with their varying needs and motivations? With such age diversity in the work place, a blanket approach wouldn’t be effective. Showing sensitivity and exercising an awareness of the various generational values is key to managing this mish-mash of demographics.

If you can, use generational differences training. This will help employees to set aside their misconceptions and see the value that each generation brings to the workplace. Take the time to communicate any changes clearly with your employees so that they understand the reasoning and benefits. Encourage network learning across a range of employees to share insights, experience and ideas through both departments and generations. Also embrace the use of mentors between older and younger employees. This relationship will allow older employees to feel that their experience is valued whilst satisfying the Millennials need for feedback. Overall, the more you get different generations working together in some capacity, the more they will understand each other.

Keeping everyone happy as a manager can be difficult at the best of times, but pleasing a multigenerational workforce can be even harder. However, with a proper understanding of their values and ambitions, and a grasp of what they’re looking for from their manager, you can quickly adapt your approach to their needs.

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