Managing a four-generation workplace

Up to four different generations can now share the workplace and they each bring a different working method, different preferred way of being managed and different set of perspectives.  The Millennial generation especially, has been said to bring a very different style and outlook compared to generations before them.  So as a manager, how can you attempt to integrate and manage all these different generations which exist in your team, to ensure the most effective working relationships?

All your employees, whether they are in their 20s or their 40s bring a different set of experiences and you should endeavour to make sure these are utilised.  Encourage your team to discuss problems they are facing or a project which they are struggling with, as someone of a different age and who brings different experience, may just have the winning formula!  An employee who has worked in the organisation for many years may have not heard of a certain insight or practice that someone who has recently just joined can suggest.  Additionally, encouraging these engagements and interactions will develop and strengthen relationships within your team.

Highlight and celebrate successes of individuals or groups of employees who have worked together.  This will increase the team spirit and make sure everyone is aware of what exciting and brilliant pieces of work their colleagues are producing.  If celebrating successes becomes a recognised trend, then employees should hopefully endeavour to work harder to make sure they are recognised too!  Plus through communicating these successes, it makes your team aware ‘who is good at what’ so they know who to go to if they need some help or advice.

Make sure communication methods are flexible.  Traditionalists and Baby Boomers typically prefer face-to-face meetings, however, Generation X’s and Millennials have a tendency to pick email.  Make sure you adapt to all preferences and create a balance between the different communication styles which are used.

It is important you make time to understand your employees’ preferences and style.  You can do as much research as possible on the different generations; however, more important is to actually have a conversation with them to find out what works best for them.  As a starter guide, discuss what their motives are, their goals, their preferred working style, how ‘managed’ they like to feel, types of projects they favour and how regular and structured they wish to have feedback.  Make sure you do not treat and stereotype two employees as the same just because they are in the same position or they are the same age!

As Megan McBroom for Associations Now rightly states, ‘Don’t ignore the age gap!’  If you consciously find yourself trying to steer away conversations which lead to recognising significant age gaps within your team, then you will end up doing more harm than intended good!  You do not want your team to feel awkward themselves, so do not end up thinking too consciously about generation differences being an issue.  Own who you are and save yourself some stress.’ says Megan McBroom.

It can be very much trial and error as you integrate and manage various generations, however, following these guidelines will help you with the best chance of success.  Always remember to treat and respect your employees as the different personalities and identities that they are!

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