This is the first in a series of four blogs that will provide insight into the multi-generational workforce.
Ninety-five percent of today's workforce is made up of three distinctively different generations spanning across 50 years (see chart below). Your department may have team members approaching the end of their career (60+ years) and others just starting theirs (early 20s). This span of age groups creates unique challenges for department leadership and their managerial skills. Leaders need to keep in mind that productivity and business results are linked to the type of work environment they create. That said, your primary objective as a leader is to build a work environment that supports team members and business goals!
Be Flexible in Your Leadership Style
Turning a multi-generational creative services department into a mutually reinforcing team is no easy task. Leaders must be flexible to get the most from all employees and build teams that thrive. A one-size-fits-all approach no longer fits. It may motivate some, but be a real turn-off to others. The three generations that comprise your organization come to work with different expectations, assumptions, priorities and approaches to work and communication. If these differences are ignored, they can grow into a source of misunderstanding and conflict. However, when embraced and appropriately managed they create opportunities for collaboration and synergy among the different generations of workers, giving the organization a competitive edge.
In adopting a more flexible approach as the key to success in leading and motivating a multi-generational department, here are a few ideas you should consider:
- Adapt your attitudes about rewards, work styles, communication preferences and motivators to match generational expectations--be open about different generations in the work place and make an effort to start conversations about it.
- Understand what makes each generation tick--offer different options to best meet the needs of a multi-generational work place.
- Leverage the strengths of each generation--pursue and encourage a multiplicity of perspectives and ideas. This leads to innovation.
- Build bridges between generations--build on strengths and encourage people to become more of who they are rather than pushing them to conform.
- Communicate uniquely with each generation--observe and discover ways to meet the different communication styles of your team.
- Support the values of each generation--make a point to ask people about their individual needs, views and preferences.
Whether born in 1950 or 1990, one thing all generations have in common is that when people are happy at work they are more productive and engaged about the well-being of the company. In other words, work must be relevant, although what is relevant may be different for each group. It's your job to recognize the differences.
How distinct individuals work together and interact on a day-to-day basis as a cohesive creative team is a key component to your department's overall success. The best leaders are those who can meet the needs of all employees by accommodating the needs of individuals. In doing so, you can raise your performance expectations and receive higher performance from more engaged employees who are willing to help you succeed in achieving business objectives.
When multi-generations come together and work as a cohesive team, additional intangible assets can be achieved:
- The team's flexibility is increased.
- A team has higher potential for creative and innovative ideas.
- A broad range of perspectives leads to stronger and more well-rounded decisions.
- Internal dissention decreases and morale goes up.
Look Out for Potential Conflicts
With three generations in the workplace there is potential for generational conflict that can undermine the ability of employees to pull together as a team and work effectively to accomplish tasks. These conflicts can range from minor misunderstandings to accusations of bias in a variety of areas. Preventing conflict is not always easy, but by developing an understanding of each group's motivational buttons you can certainly minimize any disruption.
You can help minimize conflict by:
- Focusing on the strengths each generation brings to the workplace and assign tasks based on these strengths.
Example: Gen Xers often excel at helping to increase efficiency. Boomers can use their tendency to explore all aspects of a situation to complete thorough research.
- Communicating to your entire team that generational differences are not necessarily either good or bad.
Example: Employees need to delay making judgments when they encounter work styles and values different than their own.
- Educating your managers to embrace team differences.
Example: A Boomer manager who does not understand that younger workers have a different view of where and when work gets done will experience conflict with these employees.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing a multi-generational workforce, by taking full advantage of what each generation brings to the table enables leaders to build thriving teams, increase employee engagement and achieve business goals.