How to Lead a Multigenerational Workforce

Oct 29, 2020 | Talent Management & Recognition

In today’s workplace, five generations can be working alongside each other. That’s a dramatic range of lived experience, fresh insights, and talent—if you know how to leverage it effectively. Promoting strong teamwork between them all will help you reach the next level of success.

Which generations can be found in today’s workplace? Here’s a quick rundown of them, along with the years when they were born:

  • The Silent Generation (1925–1945)
  • Baby Boomers (1946–1964)
  • Generation X (1965–1980)
  • Millennials (1981–1994)
  • Generation Z (1995–2000)

Today, older employees are working for longer rather than retiring early. Meanwhile, Generation Z continues to rush into the job market. Thus, intergenerational collaboration gives your team a major competitive advantage. You’ll benefit from the distinct skills and attributes that each age group brings to the table. Here are some tips for improving that collaboration to get the most from your team.

Understand trends; question stereotypes.

It’s valuable to understand what motivates each generation and where its strengths tend to lie. For instance, Millennials prioritize opportunities to grow and overcome challenges. Boomers or Silent Generation employees tend to be more naturally engaged and motivated. For Millennials, help with goal-setting and frequent feedback leads to stronger engagement. 

However, these trends are not absolute truths that apply to everyone from a given age group. Focus on getting to know people as individuals to understand what truly drives them. Survey your employees to find out what matters most to them in a job. For example, ask them how much they value engaging in creative problem-solving, self-directed work, skill-sharing, and continuous learning. 

Be flexible.

Younger workers often prefer variety to a strictly defined role. They enjoy working on different types of projects that venture outside of their job description. They often seek out the chance to change their role. Give them opportunities to do that within your company so they’ll be more likely to stay with you for many years.

Combine cross-training and up-skilling.

Cross-training teaches people to perform a new function. Up-skilling shows people how to be more effective in their current role. When people who wish to cross-train and up-skill pair up, new relationships can flourish. 

Pair up people from different generations so they can get to know each other better. A Millennial or Gen Zer will appreciate learning a new skill that could allow them to shift their role. An older employee could gain tips on how to use a new program to improve workflow processes. As they learn to work more efficiently, they could become more productive and confident. In this way, each person gains a valuable new skill.

Create forums for idea-sharing.

Workers of every age can be equally innovative. Promote dialogue between them all by facilitating idea-sharing. Hold a brainstorming session or add brainstorming time to your team meetings. Beforehand, tell each participant why you feel it’s critical to have their voice at the table. Take note of whether people from each generation are speaking up. If not, prompt them to share their ideas. Mention what you appreciate most about quieter participants to bolster their confidence. 

Keep an open mind when recruiting.

Avoid age bias by giving applicants of every generation equal consideration when hiring. Focus on each candidate’s personal strengths and encourage employees of all age groups to make referrals. If possible, gain input from an age-diverse recruiting team, affirming your commitment to a well-rounded workforce. In your recruitment messaging, use language that reflects the priorities of each generation. For example, a Millennial might prioritize the opportunity to receive mentoring, while a Boomer might feel especially drawn to an organization that emphasizes the value of their contributions and knowledge.

Put these tips into action, and you’ll have a vibrant, highly effective workforce. Your employees will be more engaged in their work and excited to come in every day. They’ll feel seen and respected while having a rich network of relationships that keep them loyal to your company. 

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