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Research Triangle Business Advisors
October 2014 Newsletter
In a couple of older newsletters I have touched on the issue of getting employees to succeed in achieving their goals – i.e. getting their work done. This month I take another look at that problem, but from the perspective of the multi-generational workforce. Today, the county’s workforce is made up of four generations of employees – Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials (Gen Yers). These groups all have clear, but different, characteristics, motivations, values and approaches to their work. This article is intended to help you manage better in this multi-generational work environment.
Bob De Contreras
How to Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce
In today’s multi-generational environment, and because of each generation’s uniqueness, it can seem as if we are not speaking the same language. This can lead to less teamwork, morale issues, and reduced productivity. In addition, many companies are seeing new hierarchies as millennials and Gen Xers manage baby boomers or veterans who return to the workplace after a period of retirement or who begin new jobs or careers after a lay off. This type of upside-down hierarchy can cause multi-generational friction.
On the other hand, the mix of generations in the company can be a huge advantage. Mixing veterans’ experiences and knowledge with millennials’ vitality, optimism, and technical expertise can greatly enhance the company’s bottom line. But, in order to capitalize on these advantages, managers must first learn to speak the language of each generation, and find out what they value, what motivates them, and what strengths and weaknesses they possess.
In the following sections I will first describe each of the generations and then bring it all together with a list of specific actions managers can use to realize the benefits of the multi-generational workforce.
Veterans were born before 1945. Veterans did not typically go to college. Instead, they began working immediately after high school or military service. Income from a stable, solid employer, not necessarily personal fulfillment, was the driving force of most veterans. They came of age in an era in which it was typical for a person to work for a single company until retirement. Loyalty to their companies is a prime value for veterans. This generation respects the chain of command, they value experience in others and in themselves, and they appreciate dedication, loyalty, and hard work.
Managers of veterans are most successful when they:
Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. They grew up during a period of national unrest, and this created a sense of strong individualism. As the baby boomers matured during the 1980s, they became known for prioritizing their careers ahead of their personal lives. Their children were the first generation of “latch-key kids” who had two parents working outside the home. Baby boomers tend to value personal connections with coworkers, put a lot of time and effort into their work, and expect their subordinates to do likewise. Unlike veterans, baby boomers are not opposed to job-hopping if it serves their interests.
Managers of baby boomers are most successful when they:
Generation Xers were born between 1965 and 1980. As their baby boomer mothers increasingly entered the workforce, generation Xers became the first generation in which a significant number of children grew up in dual-income households. They learned to be independent, self-confident, creative, and comfortable on their own. At work, Gen Xers are independent, technology knowledgeable and strong multi-taskers. They do not see the value in frequent meetings when a weekly, or even daily, email update can provide the same information. This generation is motivated by extra time off rather than money and they place a premium on their personal lives. Many Gen X women are choosing to leave high-powered careers to focus on their families.
Managers of Gen Xers are most successful when they:
Millennials or Generation Yers were born after 1980. This generation saw the return to child-centered households as many late baby boomers and early Gen Xers chose to focus on family rather than their careers. Many millennials have relationships with their parents that are characterized by friendship, and because of this they expect to be treated as equals in the workplace. Millennials are the most technologically centered generation in companies today, because they grew up with much of the technology that fills the work environment today. They tend to need more feedback, more frequently than their Gen X predecessors, and they often need tasks carefully described and outlined. They prefer to work in teams and are very flexible.
Managers of millennials are most successful when they:
Bringing it all together
Yes, it’s a very complex topic with no clear way to start improving the multi-generational workforce. You may have noticed that several of the eleven suggestions above are focused on baby boomers and millennials. That is because these two generations make up the majority of today’s workforce. So, start there – focus on some of the recommendations that improve the environment for these two generations.
Cary | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park |
Greensboro | North Carolina