Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Managing a multi-generational work environment

The workplace environment has changed drastically in the past few decades, meaning that team leaders are now having to learn how to successfully manage multi-generational employees. People who would’ve once be long retired are working alongside teenage apprentices and young adults fresh from college. Throw into the mix individuals who change their career path in their late 20s and 30s and you could have an extremely diverse work environment. Learning to manage a multi-generational work environment is not only essential to ensure happy employees but is necessary to achieve peak productivity.

What problems are associated with a multi-generational workplace?

If you are aware of the phrase “OK boomer” you will have some insight into how different generations may regard one another. The term 'boomer' relates to people born in the two decades after World War II. Boomers are thought to be out of touch with today’s generation. Besides boomers, there are other generations that have been given names, all of whom you may find in the same workplace:

Traditionalists – born between 1922 and 1945
Boomers or baby boomers – born between 1946 and 1964
Generation X – born between 1965 and 1980
Generation Y or millennials– born between 1981 and 1997
Gen Z – born between 1998 and present day

It is understandable to think that a multi-generational workplace will face problems, after all, each generation will have experienced different technologies and ways of doing things in a work environment. Problems can arise from prejudices of each generation born from presuming they are too traditional or non-PC, or conversely, too modern or liberal. Other difficulties can arise from one generation not being experienced in using certain technologies, and other generations ignoring tried and tested ways of approaching specific elements of work. For example, it may be presumed that older generations may not be fully aware of the benefits of social media, while younger generations may be perceived as being too reliant on modern technology. Clashes such as these require competent management to avoid confusion and frustration between colleagues.

How do I manage multiple generations successfully?

You will be relieved to know that there are ways to create a cohesive workforce made up of many generations.

Don’t make presumptions

It is all too easy to presume that younger candidates will be more capable when it comes to modern technologies and online media. However, it should never be presumed that other generations are not as up to date with technological advances. Bear in mind that the older generations have also lived through changing technologies. In the same way, don’t believe that Gen Zs couldn’t possibly live without their mobile devices or that they are easily distracted by social media updates. Treat each employee as an individual and listen to their unique experiences to ascertain how they will complement your workplace.

Encourage inter-generational mentoring

Like any workplace, employees may have very different experiences and qualifications. Use this to your advantage by encouraging employees to share their skills with one another. For example, one generation may not realise the importance of social communication etiquette, and another could be lacking the real-life interpersonal skills still required in today’s work environments. By delivering this in the form of mutually beneficial mentorships you are ensuring that employees don’t feel patronised.

Ascertain the goals and ambitions of each employee

There are many benefits to having a multi-generational workforce, especially when you know what each employee wants from their work. Younger generations without commitments may be more willing to travel and be keen to be given opportunities to do so. Those with family commitments may not want to be away for long periods of time and their skills could be better used elsewhere. However, it is essential that you don’t just presume, and as a manager you need to ascertain what each employee wants.

Be flexible

Being aware of the many potential differences between generations in the workplace allows you to get the most out of your employees. By being flexible with your approach to each employee and acknowledging their strengths, weaknesses and individual needs, you can provide management that will benefit not only them, but your entire workforce.

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