Managing a multigenerational workforce requires leaders to strike a balance between the drastically different needs of each employee. Overcoming the challenges that diversity presents to day-to-day leadership begins with acknowledging the unique benefits that each generation has to offer, and working toward earning their buy-in to your leadership model.
The oldest members of the workforce, known colloquially as the Veterans (1909-1945), are rapidly reaching the age of retirement. Many younger leaders see this as a positive, citing their general lack of familiarity with technology and claiming that they have an overall slower pace when learning new methods or softwares. Typically, these employees are also on the higher end of the pay scale and have worked their way up to large chunks of paid time off each year. However, Veterans offer decades of experience in their fields, a practical and outlook, and a high level of dedication to their organization. Veterans are often the first to offer a workable solution, and their years of experience make them strong leaders of the younger generations.
Many of the same misconceptions held about the Veterans of the workforce are applied to the Baby Boomers (1946-1964) as well. However, Baby Boomers tend to be more optimistic than practical, and while they are equally driven and dedicated to their positions, they are no longer inclined to blindly follow authority. Boomers tend to bring a team-oriented, autonomous energy to the workplace, while still offering the experience and expertise garnered by spending decades as productive members of the workforce.
At this point, the majority of workers fall into Generation X (1965-1985), the technologically savvy, skeptical, and ambitious generation unlikely to bend to authority until it is seen as competent. These workers are the most difficult to manage, as they are the first generation to ditch the model of a lifetime of dedication to a single employer for the chance to follow opportunities as they arise. These workers seek a balance between their work and family life, and will readily leave jobs if another company appears to make this balancing act easier.
The current generation just entering the workforce, Generation Y (1986-current), shares similar values. Like their predecessors, these workers are technological geniuses, and are generally hopeful, ambitious, loyal achievers. Generation Y employees look for respectful and democratic leaders, and balk at bowing to authority just because they are expected to. They are less self-oriented than Generation X, and will often seek out ways to give back to their community. These employees thrive on opportunities to represent their organizations at charity events, and will often leave positions if they perceive their employer as unethical.
In the end, each generation must be carefully managed. Veterans and Baby Boomers must feel that their knowledge and experience is respected, while Generation X and Y must feel that their leaders are competent before becoming dedicated to the organizational mission. By remaining dedicated to a positive leadership model, offering respect and constructive feedback, you will soon find that employees of all generations will be dedicated and productive members of your team.
Head of Training and Development