As Gen Z increasingly enter the workforce, managers will be faced with a multi-generational workforce. With the right management steps, these diverse groups can be of benefit to organisations.
Today, workplaces are encouraged to be diverse in order to enrich their output. This diversity extends to gender, social economic background, ethnicity and age. It is not uncommon to find a workplace with the silent generation, generation X, millennials, baby boomers and generation Z.
What are the different generational groups?
The silent generation
They are born between 1928 and 1945, and are in their mid 70s and early 80s. Most have retired and might be seen in the roles of board members, senior partners or charged with advisory work.
Born between 1946 and 1964, they are in their mid 50s and early 70s. While many are approaching retirement age, a few are choosing to remain in the workplace.
This generation is born between 1965 and 1980, which puts them in their forties and fifties.
Millennials were born between 1980 and 1995. They are in their early twenties to mid thirties. They are making up an increasingly large number of the current global workforce.
The newest entrants to the workforce were born between 1996 and 2015.
How to manage a multi-generational workforce
While each of these groups have certain identifiers, stereotyping should be avoided in managing a multi-generational workforce. Managers as well as colleagues should not assume that millennials are “entitled” or that baby boomers are “rigid.”
However, differences do exist between the generations and it is helpful to acknowledge them. Educating staff and carrying out trainings in the form of role playing exercise can put employees in the shoes of those on the receiving end of a negative bias.
It is also dangerous to pretend stereotypes do not exist. It can lead to missed opportunities for employees; one might assume a baby boomer is less skilled at digital work when they are not. It can foster a negative work culture and worst of all can open an organisation up to legal risk.
Pay attention to your employee value proposition (EVP)
An employee value proposition will include benefits that staff get in return for their skills. It can be a helpful guide in managing a multi-generational workforce successfully. These benefits can include; fully catered meals, gym and health facility memberships or, the opportunity to be mentored by industry leaders.
In designing your EVP, make sure that it encompasses the desires of your diverse workforce. While Gen Z workers might really like a mentor, their seniors might be more interested in membership at a gym. To arrive at one that suits everyone, a few interviews with employees representing the different age groups will be helpful.
This is accounting firm PWC’s EVP:
“From empowering mentorships to customised coaching, PwC provides you with the support you need to help you develop your career. You’ll work with people from diverse backgrounds and industries to solve important problems. Are you ready to grow?”
Make sure that the EVP doesn’t just stop at being a really well-crafted statement though, but that it is also reflected in policies and practices.
Work on your organisation’s culture
A positive and supportive workplace culture can bring success to the management of a multi-generational workforce. Strive to create a culture where learning, curiosity and vulnerability are honoured. It can be intimidating to work alongside people with decades of experience.
At the same time, working with colleagues who are up to date with all the trends can be difficult. Mutual respect can help to erase these barriers. Managers should steep themselves in the culture too and be open to asking questions and learning from their reports.
Use various communication platforms
Communication is the backbone of any effective organisation. Management needs to be able to communicate to staff and they in turn need to be able to communicate with management. Don’t forget the fact that employees also need to communicate with each other.
Despite the fact that there are several ways to communicate today, organisations still find that they have communication gaps. These gaps can turn into a large divide with a multi-generational workforce.
You can prevent this from happening by offering a choice of text, voice and video communication platforms. Teams should come to a consensus on which platforms work best for everyone. They can also choose to use a blend of the different platforms.
Keep in in mind that language varies across generations. It can be so severe that one generation may struggle to understand the lingo favoured by the other. In managing a multi-generational workforce, standardise companywide communication.
Slang, unless it is part of the brand voice and culture, should only be used if it is understood by everyone. This will ensure that communications are never missed by anyone.
Skills training should be a priority
With a multi-generational workforce, you are likely to end up with a wide range of skills. This is one of the benefits of having such a mix of employees. Still, it is important to offer opportunities for skills building and knowledge growth.
Skills can be built through formal trainings and knowledge sharing between generations through peer mentoring. When planning formal trainings, make them flexible. While some employees may take to new technologies, others might need more time.
In the same way, others might have more in depth project management skills from a previous job while others are beginners. To cater to everyone, do a needs assessment before embarking on training. In this way, no one will be overlooked or left behind. It will also help employees embrace and look forward to trainings.
Organisations with a multi-generational workforce can leverage their different experiences to create products and services that put them above their competition. The balance in managing this type of workforce is in catering to the unique needs of all the employee groups while leading them as one team with one goal.