Managing a multi-generational workforce

Zoho People | November 7, 2019 | 3 min read

We are witnessing history.

 For the first time, employees from five different generations are in today’s workforce. The major cause is this trend: older generations, like the baby boomers, are retiring later. In fact, most are working well past their retirement age and will likely continue to do so.

While this historical event may sound fascinating, managing people from five very different generations can be a challenge. The reason is simply that all of them have different characteristics and aspirations that you need to understand.

So how do you get them to work together?

6 tips for managing a multi-generational workforce

1. Embrace the differences

Everyone has their own areas of expertise. Rather than isolating these differences or creating only like-minded groups, try to promote cross-generational mentorship. Pair employees of different generations, and ensure the mantle of mentorship keeps switching. For instance, a Gen Z employee might have more expertise in the latest social media apps while a baby boomer might know the best sales pitch. Having them mentor each other and share their knowledge will promote healthy workplace relationships and also provide the team with a new perspective.

2. Listen closely

If there is one thing that’s common to every employee, regardless of generation, it’s that they want to be heard. Be it suggestions, ideas, or solutions to business problems, every employee wants to have their views acknowledged. Ensure you provide a chance for your employees to voice their opinions, and implement the ideas that make sense. This will also improve employee engagement and, as they say, an engaged employee is a happy employee. Learn the 7 other ways to improve the ”employee happiness quotient” of your organization.

3. Encourage diverse working styles

External factors influence your employees. Be it working hours or business attire, they are accustomed to certain norms and cultures based on their generation. For instance, while the Silent Generation may prefer formal office attire, that might seem outrageous to Gen Zers. While the elder generations may have only experienced working from a desk, the younger members of the workforce prefer mobility. Provide common ground, and encourage your employees to follow their working style in a way that also aligns with the company’s policies.

4. Make everyone feel valued

 No employee should feel that other colleagues are given more importance or say simply because they have more experience. That experience can be valuable, but it should also be understood that new employees also have some interesting solutions or ideas. This will help employees feel valued and prevent skepticism and disengagement. Conduct brainstorming sessions across teams. Use every opportunity to get a glimpse of the different mindsets of your team members, and capitalize on the best ideas amidst their discussions.

5. Engage every employee

 The golden rule for an organization is to engage employees. Employees influence one another, and a disengaged employee can adversely affect the ones that aren’t. One of the factors that cause disengagement is micromanagement. Micromanaging employees based on your working style will result in less motivation. Instead, give them ownership over their tasks. Set realistic expectations, and leave it up to them to find their own ways to meet these expectations. This gives an employee a sense of accountability and responsibility that boosts their confidence and ultimately engages them better. Read about more such tips to boost your employees’ engagement here.

6. Do not generalize the generations

Last but not least, don’t stereotype employees based on their generation. Every individual is different, and the generational classification is only a generalization used to try and understand people. Don’t assume someone to act in a certain way based on peers from the same generation. Some baby boomers might be exceptionally good with technology or a millennial might just stick to one job for their whole lifetime. Instead of leaning on stereotypes, use your experience working with them as professionals to understand how they individually contribute to the team.

There you go! We hope this helps you understand your multi-generational workforce a little better. If you have more tips and techniques, comment below and let us know.

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