4 Thoughtful Tips for Managing Workplace Generations
Generation Alpha to Gen Z: Tips for Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce
Today, multi-generational workforces are becoming increasingly complicated with Boomers, X, Millennials, and now Gen Z working together. With workplace dynamics growing and changing at a rapid rate, new and unique challenges are presenting themselves daily to managers.
Motivational and communication missteps can occur if you don’t understand the fundamental differences between the generations. These conflicts cause an increase in employee turnover and a decrease in office efficiency while running the risk of creating a generally hostile work environment. Let’s look at each generation briefly, then discuss a few key takeaways to make working together easier.
Baby Boomers: Individuals born between 1946 and 1964 during the post-World War II era are part of the “Baby Boomer” generation. Baby Boomers tend to value hard work, healthy and friendly competition, as well as teamwork. It is common for Boomers to fight against the rules and regulations if they disagree with them, and they are known for their passion for the causes that they identify with.
Generation X: Born between 1965 and 1980, members of Generation X tend to be loyal, creative, and independent. These individuals desire equal access to facts and workplace information, benefit from regular feedback, and believe in a healthy balance between work and their personal life.
Millennials: Millennials are known by many names, including Generation Y, Net Kids, and the Google generation, to name a few. Members of this generation were born between 1981 and 1995 with a heavy emphasis on technology throughout their upbringing. Millennials tend to be quick and very good at multi-tasking with a “time is money” mindset and an optimistic and enthusiastic outlook on responsibilities. Additionally, Millennials commonly crave positive reinforcement from peers and superiors.
Generation Z: Gen Z, also known as Digital Natives and iGeneration, were born between 1995 and 2009. Generation Z is just entering the workplace. The following descriptors are predictions: Motivated by security, this entrepreneurial group will be driven by competition and want to be judged for their efforts as opposed to team results. This group will want to want to work independently (will we see the open office die?) and will make the multi-tasking of Millennials a thing of the past. As the first fully digital native generation, they only know a world of 24/7 connectivity using multiple apps at once and flipping between social, text, email, and instant message communication methods.
Generation Alpha: Children of Millennials are currently being called Generation Alpha. This title may be temporary but has caught on in popularity. People born between 2010 and 2024 will be a part of Generation Alpha. An article in the Atlantic describes them as the best-educated generation ever, most technically immersed, wealthiest, and likely to spend some or all of their childhood without both biological parents in the home.
Workforce Composition by 2024:
Boomers/Gen X- 24.6%
Generation Z- 11.5%
Communicating with the Different Generations
- Be mindful of body language: Non-verbal communication is highly valued and can affect the perceptions of Baby Boomers in the workplace.
- Avoid speaking in overly authoritative tones: Be direct when you address Boomers but avoid sounding too stiff or stern.
- Be willing to meet face to face: Baby Boomers value personal interaction.
- Share company and project details at every opportunity with Boomers who place importance on being kept up to date.
- Be open to informal settings: Communicate with members of this generation in a casual and light-hearted environment.
- Open lines for duel feedback: Be sure to provide the employee with regular feedback on their performance while also asking for their input concerning yours.
- Keep them in the loop: Generation X wants detailed status updates.
- Call first then email to communicate with Generation X.
- Create an equal playing field: Be sure to talk respectfully and avoid talking down to Millennials.
- Create a light-hearted workplace: Use humor and personality tactics to bring character into the office.
- Provide positive reinforcement regularly.
- Overuse technology, if needed: Millennials depend on technology to get through their day. Use various tech tools, including email, apps, and texts to communicate at every opportunity.
- Use imagery and be concise. Gen Z takes in information instantaneously and loses interest just as fast.
- Prioritize texting over talking and communicate across multiple channels at once.
- Personalize content to capture Gen Z’s attention.
4 Tips for Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce
- Apply the data. Use data to figure out a road map. Start with assessing your generational population. Look at company and department breakdowns. Chances are you have micro-populations that will require different strategies. Your Finance organization may have a higher concentration of more experienced professionals in the Boomer or X generations. Your sales organization may skew toward Millennial or potentially incoming Gen Zs. Learning about the generations you employ is only half the data you need. Next, analyze what technology and communication channels you use on the job. Intranet, email, voicemail, cell phone, ERP, tools like Slack, IM, conferencing, etc. How do the two analysis line up? Is there a channel or means to match the needs of the generations at work?
- Chunk your messaging. Chunking is a strategy employed in instructional design to break down more significant concepts into chunks of information that are more easily absorbed and retained. Chunking is a great way to communicate across generations as all generations can get something from it. Each generation has distinct preferences in learning styles. Boomers tend to like more structured instructor-led learning and use of handouts and books. Generation X prefer case studies and need a little more persuasion to engage in the content. Delivery isn’t as crucial for them. Instead, they want to know, “how will this benefit me.” Millennials prefer to spend less time in classroom-type learning and respond to multi-channel presentation and video use. The key takeaway? Distill messaging into chunks and then create distinct delivery methods that work for all generations.
- Drill to the core. Have you identified the core values that drive your business? Core values are the foundation of an organization. Company culture is built upon core values, and recruiting and hiring always refer to core values. The key takeaway? Generation aside, everyone who works for you likely embodies core character traits or beliefs that all point in the same direction. This is a commonality amongst your workforce and can be a great bridge building platform.
- Mix and Mingle. Do your generations mingle on the job? Beyond the regular social events, do you have company committees or mentorship opportunities that you can be intentional about mixing groups of people on the job? Training and development is a fantastic example where multiple generations can all participate together. Early in my career, I was fortunate to work for a company that rotated through training topics by an employee. Each employee had a chance to research, lead, and train the rest of the team. The key takeaway? If you look for it, there are opportunities at every company, in every industry, of every size to mix and mingle your workplace generations.
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