Managing Generational Differences in the Workplace

Many of today’s companies have employees that represent various generations, and this can lead to many generational differences in the workplace.

Having differences in business can be a benefit because homogeneity often leads to a lack of new ideas and fresh perspectives.  However, if those differences are not appropriately managed, it can lead to division and a lack of engagement within the company.

To ensure the latter does not occur, it’s essential that all companies with employees from multiple generations be diligent in ensuring each generational sector feel appreciated, welcomed, and vital to the success of the company.

Generational Subsets

There are currently 3 generations most likely to be employed at this time.

Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.

Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980.

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996.

There are some Traditionalists still employed, though most have passed the working age.  They were born between 1927 and 1945.

Generation Z is entering the workforce in higher numbers being born between 1997 and today.

Each generation is likely to come to the company with different wants, needs, and viewpoints.  Taking everyone’s opinions into consideration and treating each employee as an essential member of the team are the high-level keys to managing generational differences in the workplace.

Below you will find more specific tips regarding managing these multigenerational differences amongst employees.

Review Your Company Culture

You can start managing generational differences in the workplace by reviewing how your company culture treats all generations within the company.  

Is the environment inclusive? Are there opportunities for collaboration amongst employees of various generations? Do members of different generations feel as though their needs are not being met or considered?

The review and adjustment of your company culture should not be a process only completed by those at the top of the company hierarchy. Every member of the team should have input regarding the creation and implementation of the company culture.

This can be done by having an in-person conversation or receiving input and feedback via digital formats such as surveys.

Also, offering opportunities for employees of multiple generations to be visible within various departments and levels of the company allows for a more heterogeneous culture overall.  

Consider Your Communication Style

An employee born in 1964 likely prefers to communicate in a different style than one born in 1994.

To offer an inclusive environment, provide communication methods that would make everyone within your company feel comfortable and considered.  

The IBM Center for The Business of Government posted a study highlighting the common communication preferences of members of the different generations.

  • Traditionalists often prefer personal notes and letters.
  • Baby Boomers prefer phone calls and face to face meetings.
  • Generation X is more comfortable with emails.
  • Millennials utilize text messages and blogs to communicate regularly.

This doesn’t mean you should stereotype your employees and assume Baby Boomers don’t text or Millennials don’t like phone calls.

It just means you should consider communicating in various ways to meet the possible preferences of your employees who represent different generations.  

You can gain a clearer understanding of communication preferences by getting feedback directly from your employees.  This can be done by sending out a digital survey to your team or bringing up the topic during your next department meeting.

Another communication topic to consider is whether there are open lines of communication amongst everyone on the team.  

If a millennial employee feels uncomfortable bringing ideas to the table, their skill set is not being utilized properly.

Also, if a Generation X employee believes his ideas are not taken seriously, he won’t be as motivated to stay fully engaged in the company.

Consider What Motivates Your Multigenerational Employees

You will likely find that each generation is motivated by something slightly different due to their background.

To determine what motivates your employees, gain feedback from them regarding what would make them feel more satisfied at work and what can be done to increase engagement with the team.

Motivating your employees should lead to increased employee engagement, but if you’re seeking additional methods to improve the engagement rate of your employees, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.

In the same study referenced previously, the IBM Center for The Business of Government also highlighted the various rewards employees from multiple generations prefer.

  • Traditionalists tend to prefer loyalty symbols such as plaques and certificates.
  • Baby Boomers prefer promotions and other forms of recognition.
  • Generation X is motivated by professional development opportunities or certifications that will advance their careers.
  • Millennials prefer awards or monetary rewards in the form of bonuses or raises.

Again, you shouldn’t stereotype your employees based solely on their generational status, but instead, use this information as a guide. Ultimately, gaining feedback from your employees regarding precisely what would make them feel more satisfied allows you to get real insight into the factors that motivate them.

Promote Team Building

Engaged employees are happy employees, and happy employees feel comfortable amongst their co-workers.

Team building should be initiated regularly whether your company employs members from multiple generations or not because it’s good business practice. When your employees are from numerous generations, it can be even more essential to building a positive business culture than usual.

You want to incorporate team building as a way to connect employees of all generations and to connect members of the company who are at all hierarchy levels.

A team building activity can be as simple as going to happy hour after work for an informal opportunity to connect outside of the office, or as detailed as planning a team building program at an off-campus site.

Whichever route you take, remember that a team built on trust, consideration, and mutual respect is more likely to succeed.

Moving Forward

As you make the steps to manage generational differences in the workplace remember that your company is blessed with the opportunity to have employees representing various generations.  Their knowledge can serve and support your clients and customers in invaluable ways.

About the Author Cindy Constable

Culture must be created, grown, and sustained by design over the long term. Cindy is a Culture Transformation Specialist for corporations. She uses a restorative process called A.I.R.R. to elevate your company culture and bring integration between your leadership, vision, culture, and team members to enhance overall performance.

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