If managing gender and ethnic diversity wasn’t a challenge enough for organizations, leading a multi-generational force has emerged a new battle frontier. Each generation brings its unique set of skills, beliefs, attitudes and expectations to the workplaces. They also possess/require different leadership styles and have distinct approaches to decision-making as well as problem-solving.
Most of today’ workplaces comprise of four generations:
- Baby Boomers – born between 1954 and 1964 (workaholic, competitive, optimistic, authoritative, loyal)
- Generation X – born between 1965 and 1980 (entrepreneurial, independent, moderate attachment to employer, tech-pioneers)
- Millennials/Generation Y – born between 1981 and 1997 (open-minded, tech-savvy, self-expressive, job opportunity seekers)
- Generation Z – born since 1998 (highly educated, sophisticated, ultra tech-savvy, pop-culture lovers, brand influencers)
While baby boomers are in the retirement age, they are still actively contributing their wisdom and experience. Generation X are probably have the toughest time at workplaces, trying to cope up with the millennial workforce while retaining their traditionalist view.
Different Generations: Bringing Them All Together
According to a research by ManpowerGroup, millennials will make up 35 per cent of the global workforce by 2020. Hence, managing their workplace expectations is a number one priority for organizations. Gen Z, comprising 2 million people globally, is about to make their career debut soon and organizations have started preparing to absorb them in their workforce. With such a diverse demographic working side by side, it doesn’t take rocket science to understand why organizations are struggling to break the generation barriers.
Haydn Shaw, the author of book titled ‘Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart’ aptly calls these barriers as ‘sticking points’. Every generation wants to other to see the world from their viewpoint, resulting in conflicts, delayed decision-making and a full-stop on new idea creation. Based on his experience of consulting Fortune 100 and 500 companies, he says that generational stereotypes are responsible for the most damage as they freeze thinking and tear down interpersonal relationships.
However, having said so, the co-existence of multi-generations teams has its own advantages:
- Varying skill-sets at work
- Blend of experience, knowledge and openness to new ideas
- Quicker technology adaption
- Multiple perspectives for decision-making
The management of age-neutral workforce calls for cross-generational/mix and match leadership style, advanced collaborative tools, bridging of communication gaps and continual mentoring. Sounds difficult, but the following strategies will make this possible:
Understand Inter-generational Dynamics
‘One fit for all’ approach wouldn’t yield the desired results with respect to multi-generational employees. In order to hire them, engage them effectively, keep them optimally productive and gain their loyalty, organizations need to understand the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that motivate different generations.
Right from compensation and incentives to training and development, everything will require personalization to accommodate all age groups.
Keep Communication Channels Open
A study revealed that ineffective communication can lead to project failures one-third of the time. Another survey cited an average annual loss of $62.4 million due to inadequate communication to and between employees. Organizations will have to ensure that collaboration and alignment between age-neutral teams does not get hampered due to lack of communication.
Appreciate their dissimilarity, but implement systems and tools that keep them on the same page. At the same time, organizations also need to tailor their messages according to generational traits.
Mix And Match Teams
A team comprising people from different generations will ensure that the pros and cons of every new idea or decision are weighed from an all-round perspective. While mature ages will add value with their experience, the new-age employees can bring in contemporary outlook and technological expertise.
Establish Mentoring Programme
In order to accommodate different learning styles of each generation, organizations would require facilitating cross-mentoring across different generations. Baby boomers and Gen X can help with knowledge-sharing while millennials and Gen Z can mentor them on social media networking or technology.
A multi-generational workforce is definitely a challenge, but it can give organizations a distinct competitive advantage as well. It’s time to celebrate the differences!