Having a multigenerational workforce can offer diversity in perspectives and experiences. But it can be challenging.
Each age group has distinctive values, work styles, communication preferences, and technological skills. But learning how to engage and manage their differences can yield a more productive work environment where employees can be happy and fulfilled at their jobs.
In this article, we’ll understand each group’s strengths and weaknesses to manage generational diversity in the workplace successfully.
What Is a Multigenerational Workforce?
A multigenerational workforce refers to a workplace environment where employees from various age groups work together. This workforce can include:
- Baby Boomer (1946-1964)
- Generation X (1965-1980)
- Millennials (1981-1996)
- Generation Z (1997-2012)
Each generation brings unique experiences, perspectives, and working styles to the workplace, which can create challenges and opportunities for collaboration and learning.
The Challenges of Managing a Multigenerational Workforce
The youngest workers were born in the era of the technological boom, while our more experienced colleagues are either still getting the hang of the digital world or busy juggling their family responsibilities.
We can’t expect everyone to perceive or respond to situations the same way. Being born in different eras, each generation may experience challenges when they collaborate, especially in the workplace.
1. Communication barriers.
It’s common knowledge that Boomers prefer face-to-face or phone conversations. They want to share ideas and give feedback to their bosses. On the other hand, Gen Xers are fond of email, while millennials and Gen Zers opt to text.
Another factor contributing to communication barriers in a multigenerational workforce is the use of different terminologies and jargon. Each generation has its own set of terms and expressions that may not be familiar to others, making it challenging to communicate effectively in some situations.
The older generations may come across as having eyes for details such as grammatical structure and flow in writing. However, the younger generation is mainly free-spirited, focused on getting results rather than paying attention to many details.
2. Differences in work ethics and values.
Boomers are often considered to have a strong work ethic, focusing on dedication, hard work, and loyalty to their employer. They believe that hard work is the key to success, hence their willingness to work extra hours beyond a typical work week.
In contrast, Millennials and Gen Z tend to prioritize work-life balance and flexibility, with 60% of Millennials and 62% of Gen Zers saying they want to be able to choose when and where they work.¹
Boomers also value job security, advancement opportunities, and financial stability. Job security was ranked by boomers and Gen Xers as the most important factor when choosing a job.²
On the other hand, Millennials tend to prioritize a sense of purpose, personal development, and work that aligns with their values. You may often come across them saying their company’s purpose is a reason why they chose to work there.
Due to what they’re used to, Boomers may view a Millennial’s desire for flexibility as a lack of commitment. In contrast, a Millennial may view the older generation’s dedication to their job as a lack of flexibility.
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3. Generational stereotypes and discriminations.
Sometimes, older people think younger people are asking too much or are easily offended. While younger people think older generations are not open to suggestions or change.
There are various comments heard from both generations, like how younger generations lack experience and older generations don’t know how to use technology.
Most of these comments are indirect and do not cause actual harm unless spoken directly. However, they can still hurt someone’s feelings and create a not-so-great work environment.
How to Engage a Multigenerational Workforce
One size fits all management is no longer effective in today’s workplaces, where employees are more diverse with different knowledge and experiences from all generations.
A good leader should be able to tailor their management style to each employee’s needs, expectations, and aspirations. Here are a few ways to manage generational differences:
1. Foster a give-and-take workplace environment.
Everyone has something to learn from others, regardless of the variations. Encourage open and honest conversations in the workplace about age stereotypes.
Non-hierarchical check-ins and mentorships foster an environment that understands each generation, allowing them to share unique stories, perspectives, ideas, and creativity.
2. Work on the communication gaps.
Miscommunications are common in the workplace, especially when employees from different generations are involved. Language evolves, and it’s easy for employees from different age groups to have vastly different interpretations of a message.
As a leader, it’s up to you to help everyone understand the different communication styles and how they can be misinterpreted. Constant reminders of individual uniqueness are necessary to break these communication gaps. Encourage employees to be open-minded and accepting of individual differences.
By fostering a culture of respect and understanding for different communication methods, employees can learn to accept each other and collaborate better.
3. Dwell on their strengths.
Every generation brings a unique life experience to the workplace, from the skills they learned in school to the world they witness. Leaders should find ways to help each generation thrive in the areas they already know and learn new skills from the generations before and after.
Social media is often seen as something that younger generations can teach to older generations. On the other hand, Gen Zs who entered a remote workforce during the pandemic can learn interpersonal skills like negotiating, networking, or speaking confidently in front of crowds from their older colleagues.
Developing a mentorship program where more senior employees can nurture and guide their younger coworkers promotes a two-way knowledge transfer.
4. Tailor the benefits.
To create a balance amidst the differences in priorities and values of each generational group, learn what drives your employees to work and help them grow in their careers. You can provide personalized career development plans that cater to each generation’s unique needs and expectations.
For the younger generation to value growth opportunities, you can support their career growth by providing them with options such as in-house training programs, online courses, and reimbursement for tuition fees.
For the older generations, you can look into providing retirement plans or paid time off to care for their families.
5. Consider offering flexibility perks.
Flexibility and balance are essential for all generations but may be more important for younger employees. They value perks such as:
- Remote work options
- Flexible schedules
- More vacation time
Create a more flexible and accommodating work environment by offering these benefits and supporting employees’ personal lives. This can help employees feel valued and empowered to manage their work and personal responsibilities effectively.
6. Don’t leave out the rewards and recognition.
Recognition and reward are strong motivators for employees across generations.
In a report by SHRM, Abel-Lanier mentioned that Baby Boomers and Generation X value traditional rewards such as promotions and pay raises. On the other hand, Millennials and Generation Z tend to value social recognition, such as public praise and peer recognition.
Being a great leader means recognizing and rewarding employees in different ways that cater to their preferences and needs. Offer a variety of incentives such as bonuses, promotions, and social recognition programs to make employees feel valued and motivated to perform their best.
7. Lead by example.
It’s not enough to be the boss who tells everyone what to do. It’s important to lead by example and model the behavior you expect from your team.
Show respect, professionalism, and a willingness to learn from all team members, regardless of their age or experience level.
Multigenerational Workforce Challenges Turned Opportunities
Baby boomers can bring decades of experience to the workplace, while millennials and Gen Zers may have a deeper understanding of emerging technology and social media. The exchange of knowledge and experience can help to create a more well-rounded and skilled workforce.
Company culture is a significant factor for job seekers and employees when deciding to join or remain with an organization. A diverse workforce in age, experience, knowledge, and tenure can significantly improve the culture. With a positive corporate culture, your employees can be more content and engaged, contributing more to the company’s success.
MAGNIFY THE OPPORTUNITIES OVER CHALLENGES WITH FOCUS PEOPLE
At Focus People, we understand the challenges of managing a multigenerational workforce. However, we also know that by leveraging the strengths and preferences of each generation, you can create a more productive and successful workplace.
Our experienced recruiters can help you find candidates from different generations with the right skills and experience for your job opening. With us, you can also access a diverse range of candidates open to flexible work arrangements, including remote work.
Contact us today, and let us help create a work environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and inclusivity.
1. Smith, Morgan. “Gen Z and Millennial Workers Are Leading the Latest Quitting Spree.” CNBC, 3 Sep. 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/03/gen-z-and-millennial-workers-are-leading-the-latest-quitting-spree-.html.
2. Gurchiek, Kathy. “Job Security, Company Stability Are Most Important, Generations Agree” SHRM, Society for Human Resource Management, 9 Aug. 2010, https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/securitystabilityimportant.aspx.