Effective leaders understand that it takes more than just moving sales and revenue numbers upward for a company to be successful. It also takes teamwork, a work environment conducive to building employee confidence and morale, and dedicated workers who care about what they’re doing and how it impacts the bigger picture.
The ability to effectively manage different types of people is one of the most important traits you can develop as a leader. It may seem fairly easy to manage peers — those around your age — because you assume you have a common frame of reference. But that’s not always the case, and the workplace isn’t filled with people just like you. Employees of all ages fill cubicles and Zoom screens during meetings. Savvy managers have to understand how to relate to multiple generations to keep teams moving forward.
Defining the Landscape
Here’s how the Pew Research Center defines generations, all of which are well represented in today’s workplace.
- The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945
- Baby Boomers: 1946-1964
- Generation X: 1965-1980
- Millennials: 1981-1996
- Generation Z: 1997-2012
As medical advancements lead to longer lifespans, it’s not uncommon for workers from older generations to stay engaged in business. At the same time, those graduating from college are just starting their careers. The mixing of these generations — and everything in between — can occasionally lead to friction and misunderstandings on the job.
Multiple Generations Result in a Well-Rounded Workforce
Having a range of ages on staff offers many benefits. Younger employees are full of excitement and energy. They’re just setting out to make their mark, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Mature employees who’ve been in the workforce longer have gained the wisdom and experience that come from years in business. This knowledge can be tapped into when making decisions or handling interpersonal challenges. Older employees often serve as guides and mentors to newer teammates who are open to coaching from those who’ve been in their position.
All employees, regardless of the generation they were born into, bring unique perspectives that add value to the team.
Tips for Leading Multigenerational Workers
While every generation has unique work habits, communication preferences, and ways of getting things done, it’s still possible to come together to accomplish common goals.
Here are a few tips for managing multigenerational employees in the workplace.
#1. Be a leader people trust. First and foremost, it’s crucial to develop a trusting relationship with your employees, regardless of age. Be the kind of leader employees come to when they have issues or problems to discuss. Research from the Center for Creative Leadership shows that employees resonate with a credible and trustworthy leader, regardless of generation. If people trust you, they’re more likely to trust the organization too.
#2. Foster a learning environment. A multigenerational workforce is ideal for creating synergies that move the needle. For this to happen, it may be necessary to break down the stereotypes associated with each generation proactively. Sometimes this can be done in team meetings or through interoffice communications. More progressive companies are starting to pair older workers with younger ones, encouraging these mini-teams to learn from one another and accomplish goals together.
#3. Model respect and positive values. Common stereotypes assume that older and younger workers don’t get along because they don’t respect each other. But research indicates that all generations value similar things, including family, integrity, love, competence, happiness, and balance. If this is true, respect for each other can’t be far off. If you model a respectful attitude, your team members will do the same.
An added benefit: Employees who feel respected in the workplace stay longer and are more loyal than those who don’t. This helps reduce employee turnover and keeps the group’s momentum going.
#4. Be flexible. Trying to run a business in today’s economy demands flexibility in all areas. As we continue to deal with COVID-19-related challenges, it’s more important than ever to be able to go with the flow. This means being open to new ways of getting the job done, whether it’s allowing employees to work from home, implementing a flexible work schedule, or finding new suppliers for goods and services.
Workers of all generations appreciate being allowed to handle their work day in the manner that works best for them. In some cases, that may not be an 8-to-5 day in the office. But if your employees feel trusted to manage their workload as they wish, you might be surprised at the results.
#5. Communicate simply and clearly. Clear, straightforward communication is of benefit regardless of the audience. Whether your team is made up entirely of Millennials or spans multiple generations, frequent, clear communication of company goals and milestones helps everyone stay on track.
The Edge You Need
When hiring new employees, don’t be afraid of either end of the generational spectrum. A multigenerational workforce provides a wide range of perspectives, experience, and energy levels to draw from. It may be just the edge you need to pull ahead of your competition!