How to manage a multigenerational workforce
With five generations now at work, here’s how to create a supportive environment for all.
For the first time in history, the global workforce comprises five generations of workers. So, it is not uncommon to find those born during World War 2 working alongside those born post-9/11. While a multigenerational workforce makes for a rich and diverse work environment, it’s something that you – as an employer – should consider and manage properly at work, so that no one feels excluded or left behind.
Read on to find out more about the generations currently at work, and how to manage a multigenerational workforce.
Who are the generations at work?
The generations currently in the workforce are separated out into generational categories. While there’s some debate around the exact years that qualify each generation, the generations are generally delineated as follows:
Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2012
Generation Z is the youngest generation in the workforce today. They’re digital natives, raised on tablets, YouTube, and social media – and enjoy a direct, collaborative management style, with clear communication and expectations. Gen Z employees tend to choose salary over benefits, but do value benefits related to mental health, wellness, and financial incentives. In countries where substantial student debt is common, such as the USA, Gen Z workers value support with their student loans.
Forbes notes that Gen Z is very socially engaged, and almost half of the Gen Z workforce says that their company’s positions on social issues would impact their decision to remain.
Millennials, born between 1980 and 1994
Of all five generations, Millennials account for the highest number of individuals at work today. Raised during the internet revolution, millennials are comfortable with technology but also remember the days of dial-up internet and a world before social media. Despite having seen both sides, Millennials enjoy and rely upon technological efficiency, and tend to be more comfortable communicating via text, instant messaging, and email – rather than phone call or in-person conversation.
Millennial employees seek and value feedback from their managers, and prioritise more of a work/life balance than older generations. The benefits Millennials value the most are often related to childcare, pension planning, and PTO. Like Gen Z, many Millennials say that their employer’s positions on social issues are important to them.
Gen X, born between 1965 and 1979
Generation X is defined by the advent of the personal computer – beginning to get to grips with technology in adulthood. Gen X tends to be relatively comfortable with both technological and face-to-face interactions. They’re generally seen as fiscally responsible, and hardworking. Overall, Gen X responded well to working from home during the pandemic, with Adobe’s 2021 State of Work study finding that Generation X responded even better than Millennials to remote working. An EY survey found that almost a third of Gen X participants who intend to leave their position, noted that hybrid or work from home options would influence them to stay.
As Gen X has been at work for several decades, they’re generally well into their careers and respond well to hands-off management and space for individual growth and progression. Benefits that appeal to Gen X include medical coverage, PTO, and benefits relating to flexibility and balance, and pensions.
Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964
Baby Boomers are renowned for their work ethic, reliability, and employer loyalty. For Boomers, technology tends to still be a relatively new concept. But technology will be relatively au fait for any boomers, who’ve continuously worked through the technological revolution of the past several decades.
Hiring workers from this generation is more easily done via job advertisements, physical applications, and face-to-face interviews. Job security is very important to workers of this generation, and they value retirement benefits such as part-time options and consulting opportunities.
Silent Generation, born between 1927 and 1945
The Silent Generation, or Traditionalists, are the oldest generation in the workforce – with the fewest members still working. Some say the ‘Silent Generation’ moniker derived from the fact that due to Cold War paranoia during the McCarthy era, much of this generation felt afraid to speak out.
Others claim it refers to the fact that children of this generation were taught to be seen and not heard. Either way, it speaks to a stoicness in this generation, and an inclination to preserve.
In the United Kingdom, The Silent Generation began working post-WWII, during an era of rationing and reconstruction, both physically and at a societal level. Conscription remained in effect until 1960, which meant many men developed a deep sense of duty and discipline. In the USA, some are veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars.
The Silent Generation appreciates opportunities for part-time work or reduced hours, and pension-related benefits, as if they are still working, they will be looking towards retirement.
What are the benefits of a multigenerational workforce?
There are many benefits to a multigenerational workforce.
While older generations have much wisdom, expertise, and industry know-how to impart to younger workers, so too can younger workers help older workers to get to grips with certain modern concepts and technologies. Employing a multigenerational workforce means that you’re not only ensuring a diverse workplace, but also ensuring that your workplace benefits from cross-generational knowledge sharing. Your workplace is getting the best of what the current workforce has to offer.
Each generation has a differing communication style, knowledge base, and outlook. Embracing and acknowledging these differences will lead to harnessing positive outcomes.
In a Randstad survey of employees in Singapore, 83% noted that being part of an age-diverse team resulted in greater innovation and original ideas and problem solving – due to the range of experience and perspectives present on the team. While younger people are more digitally minded and can offer a more technological angle, older generations have rich knowledge of the industry and their specialist fields to share.
Companies that only have one or two generations on their books will not only have limited perspectives and outlooks but are unlikely to have decent retention rates. Gen Z and Millennials are highly likely to leave jobs and move on to the next role, especially if they can’t realistically envision a future with their current organisation. Having employees from all generations will encourage younger employees to stick with your company. A strong internal talent pipeline will also save time and money in recruitment and training costs.
How to create a comfortable and supportive working environment for everyone
There are many ways to ensure that employees of all ages feel welcomed, comfortable, and included in your workplace.
Ensure an equitable hiring process
Expanding your hiring channels to include as many channels as possible is a good place to start, when seeking to eliminate age-bias from your hiring process. Ensure that the wording of your job postings is inclusive; using neutral language and avoiding language that is specific to a particular generation. If using imagery on your website or in your jobs post, ensure your depict a diverse workplace with people from varying age groups. If possible, try to have an age-diverse hiring team to help eliminate unconscious age-bias.
Creating mentoring programmes whereby older employees can share their wealth of knowledge with younger generations, and younger generations can support older generations with things like technology and more modern concepts. Encouraging this cross-generational bonding will yield greater understanding, camaraderie, and innovation in your workplace.
Understanding that employees from different generations may need varying styles of management is key to a successful multigenerational workplace. While older generations may prefer a more hands-off, results-oriented style, younger generations thrive under more particular instruction and guidance, clear goals at every step of the project, and focus on self-development. When dealing with your individual employees, it’s important to consider how they may best be supported to achieve their potential and feel your support as a manager.
Accessible work environment
A workspace with bright lights or loud music may be off putting or overwhelming people from older generations. Ensure a calming, neutral workspace to guarantee the comfort of your workers of all ages. Providing ergonomic chairs, support for those with hearing impairments, and large-text versions of internal communications and documents, are all ways to ensure that employees of all generations are included and supported within the workplace.
Our current workforce has a wealth of experience, perspectives, and knowledge to share. With such a diverse workforce, it’s important to know how to get the best from your employees of all ages, no matter where they are.
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