Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce

Wed, Jun 15, 2011

Human Resources

As a manager, you probably have workers on your team that span several generations.  Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y all have different work styles, expectations and motivations.  How can you get everyone to work together to produce the best results for your company?

Baby Boomers

The Boomers were born between 1946-1964. Loyalty is very important to the Boomers.  Many of them are used to working for the same company for a long time.  Most likely, they’ve followed a traditional career ladder, moving vertically from one role to another with increased responsibility.

In managing baby boomers, the key word is what, as in ‘What do I need to do?’ Boomers respond well to clear directions.  With the boomers on your team, be sure to explain what you need them to do on a particular project.

Boomers value face-to-face communication. Include them in meetings. Important business discussions should happen in-person with this generation.

Gen X

Generation X was born between 1965-1980.  Flexibility is very important to Gen X.  Also called the sandwich generation, because they must care for parents and children at the same time, they value work-life balance that lets them uphold their commitments.

In managing Gen X, the key word is how, as in ‘How do I do this?’  This generation learns by example. If you simply tell your Gen X employees what to do, you’ll risk losing them.  Show them how you’d like tasks accomplished.

Gen X values ease in communications.  Email is the preferred method of communication among this generation. If you need them to do something, put it in writing.

Gen Y

Generation Y, also called the Millenials, is the youngest, born between 1981-2000. Fulfillment is very important to Gen Y.  They need to feel connected to their work on a personal level. They sometimes follow a more horizontal career path than their Boomer peers, leaving jobs for comparable positions at other companies if they think it’s a better fit.

In managing Gen Y, the key word is Y, as in ‘Why should I do this?’  The end result is important to Millenials.  You should clearly explain how their role on a particular project fits into the bigger picture.

Gen Y values immediacy in communications. Social networking and text messaging provide instant gratification and connection to peers around the world. To reach Gen Y, use their methods of communication.  Intra-office instant messaging is a great way to talk to Millenials.

As more boomers reach retirement age and more members of Gen Y enter the workplace, the dynamics of the office are changing.  No matter who you supervise, flexibility as a manager is important. Use this advice as a foundation on which to build your multi-generation workforce.

By Danielle Bullen. Danielle is a writer and a resident of the Philadelphia area. Danielle can be reached at Daniellebullen@comcast.net.

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