One of the workforce trends that we have mentioned in this blog previously, is the phenomenon of having four (some even say five) generations represented in today’s workforce (see The Four Generation Workforce). A timeline with the various names for the generations appears below.
The differing approaches to work values associated with each of the generations will require a shift in managerial style to ensure workplace harmony and actively engage each worker, regardless of their generation. Based on our review of pertinent business articles, we suggest here some managerial strategies that seem to work well with this many-generational workforce.
Talk about it. There is little doubt that the different work styles of the various generations have the potential to introduce tension in the workplace. Education sessions for managers to help them recognize age-associated differences in mindset, communication styles, etc. and open forums for discussion can go a long way toward increasing understanding and respecting differences. The curriculum for diversity training needs to be expanded in scope to include age diversity as well. And while there are some generationally-related attitudes and styles, one should not confuse an individual’s character issues with generational traits.
Communicate company messages through many channels: Meetings, email, instant messages, corporate broadcasts are all ways that important company news can be communicated. If you communicate through only one means, not everyone will be reached with the message. For example, while Traditionalists and Boomers may respond well to messages involving face-to-face communication in meetings, individuals who are from Generation X and Millennials may prefer less personal but more time-efficient approaches such as email.
Study (and act on) what motivates your employees: A higher salary and title might be very motivating to some, but it has been well-documented that our youngest workers may be more motivated by increased life balance, flexible hours, opportunities to work remotely and skills enrichment opportunities. As older workers extend their careers beyond the traditional retirement years, what motivated them in the past may not be what would make an attractive incentive package for them at present. Use your annual employee survey and interviews between managers and staff to tease out all the ways with which employees can be meaningfully rewarded. Look closely at your HR policies and your incentive programs and develop some new options based on your new data. Just as one incentive plan will not fit all, a particular approach may not fit all individuals within a single generation. Innovate and experiment with your recognition options; offer alternatives to take individual preference into account.
Leverage age diversity to create better outcomes: Mentorship can go both ways: older, more experienced workers can help pass along company best practices and processes; younger workers can teach those who are more senior about topics such as technology, digital design tools and social media. Multigenerational teams or work groups can draw on the strengths of the various generations – and on the strengths of each individual worker.
Just as we have come to recognize the strength and freshness of ideas that come from a workforce that is diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity, the perspectives of workers across the age spectrum will surely provide advantage – assuming that we actively seek ways to capitalize on individual and age-group strengths. Those who find effective ways of working in the circus and keeping all the balls in the air will be winners.
To learn more about how other Life Science companies have partnered with us to overcome road blocks and capacity issues and tapped into our skilled professional talent pool, contact me at 612.703.4236 or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Talencio, LLC has been the preferred provider of vetted, accomplished professionals to the Life Sciences community for more than seven years.
Leading the Four Generations at Work