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blog | June 09, 2016

Understanding and Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce

More so now than ever before, the workplace has become a blend of individuals from all walks of life. Older generations are working alongside younger ones to accomplish the same...

By WorkWiseSoftware

More so now than ever before, the workplace has become a blend of individuals from all walks of life. Older generations are working alongside younger ones to accomplish the same goals, and businesses are tasked with learning how to manage each generation successfully. No two generations are the same, so there’s a lot to learn about each of them. Let’s take a look at each of the generations currently in or about to enter the workforce, and compare their similarities and differences in terms of working habits and values. From there, we’ll explore some proven methods for managing them.

Generation Z

It’s almost time for Millennials to vacate the spotlight. The next group of workers, called Generation Z, is about to make waves in the working world. These young people, born in the mid-1990s and sooner, are on the cusp of entering the workforce and challenge employers in many of the same ways that Millennials do. This new generation is more keen when it comes to online knowledge and internet learning than any other generation. They’ll bring unique sets of interests and skills to the table, such as a longing for a job that interests them rather than a job that simply brings in money. Additionally, this generation is very entrepreneurial and motivated to create change in the workplace.

For managers preparing to handle this new wave of workers, be patient and listen to a Generation Z’s interests and concerns. This generation needs to have their voices heard and know that they’re having an impact through the role that they play.

Millennials/Generation Y

Although they’ve been around now for several years, Millennials are still challenging businesses and management to this day. They’ve grown up with the boom of the internet and social media, and are likely proficient with anything online-related (like those coming after them). In addition to being tech-savvy, Millennials prefer opportunities to work outside of the typical 9-5 work schedule. Give them the freedom to work remotely or a flexible schedule and they’ll likely thrive.

Like Generation Z, this generation values significance; if they don’t feel like they’re being valued in the workforce, or their contributions are not being recognized, they may seek out other places of employment. Along with this, expect Millennials to try and bring about change in the workforce, specifically in terms of culture. They don’t see work as just a job to make money; for many, work needs to be a place of socialization as well.

In order to manage Millennials effectively, managers need to recognize and show that they value them. Give credit where credit is due, but also hold this generation accountable for any missteps. They’ll want to work closely with leadership to ensure that what they’re doing is accurate and valued. In addition, provide learning opportunities. Millennials are constantly finding new knowledge, especially with the influx of Google and online searching. Provide these workers with a mentor from an older generation and watch them excel.

Generation X

Before Millennials came Generation X, people between the approximate ages of 35-50. Generation Xs are very different from Millennials and Generation Zs. These individuals were raised to be independent and resourceful. They relied on conservative parenting to mold them into the independent thinkers that they are today. This generation is less interested in the culture and flexibility of a job and more interested in workplace successes, rewarding opportunities, and job promotion availability.

Unlike Millennials, Generation Xs rely on the strength of their independent spirit to guide them to success at work. While Millennials seek the support of a mentor or a colleague for collaboration and learning, Generation Xs rely on their own instincts and knowledge to learn and grow.

If you’re going to manage a member of Generation X, offer them as many resources as possible. This generation thrives on learning on their own, but will need resources to help them find success. Provide them the proper tools and they’ll be well on their way. In addition, give them a challenge. While many other generations would seek the support of others, Generation Xs want total control over their work, and are always up for a challenging task. They’ll likely organize and prioritize projects on their own without the need of a watchful eye.

Baby Boomers/Traditionalists

Baby Boomers are some of the most loyal employees that you’ll ever work with. These workers are dedicated to their companies, typically sticking around with the same business for decades. In contrast, Millennials and younger generations, if not challenged enough, will have no problem leaving a company to pursue new work experiences.

Beyond valuing a traditional workplace of 9-5 and a healthy work-life balance, Baby Boomers place an important emphasis on work experience and consistent hard work. This generation of workers takes pride in the years that they’ve put into a company, often reaching for promotions and leadership roles. It’s not uncommon for Baby Boomers to stay with the same company for their entire work history, rising up in the ranks and working as mentors to younger colleagues in the workforce.

As a manager, there’s a strong chance you’re in the generation of Baby Boomers and share many of these qualities. Regardless, to manage this generation effectively you’ll need to recognize their dedication to success and the goals of a particular company. Many times, Baby Boomers feel a great loyalty to a specific business and want to see it succeed, while other generations may be more inclined to focus on their own goals. Recognize this and appreciate it, as these loyalists can prove to be the heart and soul of your company.

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