Have you ever observed your family from a third person’s perspective; wherein you just watch various generations intermingling? True, the roles are different and if there is an understanding there will be peace, but what if they were to be brought on one single platform? That is the dilemma at workplaces, where people of all generations work together and it is upon the HR and management to ensure that their multigenerational workforce is managed in the best way possible.
So, how does one work towards bridging the generation gap to ensure maximum employee productivity is achieved? From covering generation x y z to dealing with the challenges of various generations working together, here’s the complete guide to managing a multigenerational workforce.
What is a multigenerational workforce?
A multigenerational workforce is one that is composed of employees who belong to various generations.
But, how does one understand about these generations?
Who is gen x?
What is the difference between gen x y z?
What is millennial?
Questions like these often come up and for the right reason. Generations x y z or boomers, or even traditional employees, they all form a part of this workforce and they all need to be managed effectively.
The benefit of having a multigenerational workforce is that each generation brings forth a specific trait that becomes its strength. True, they have their shortcomings as well, but if the organization takes advantage of the combined strengths of all the generations, it is extremely beneficial.
To identify how a multigenerational workforce works, there is one basic question that pops in everyone’s head, that needs to be answered. It is: What generation am I? Now that can be answered on the basis of the year of birth. Following are the generations that form a part of a multigenerational workforce, along with their respective traits.
Who are Baby Boomers (or simply Boomers)?
These are the ones who have been traditionally born somewhere between 1946 to 1964. This was the generation that witnessed incidents such as the assassination of Martin Luther King and Kennedy and even the Civil Rights Movement.
What generation is after baby boomers? Well, this generation gave way to boomers, who were slightly narcissistic in nature. Boomers constantly lived under the shadow of baby boomers and often suffered under it.
3) Have a better focus
4) Have a better and deeper experience
5) Have high work ethics
Who are Generation X?
What is gen x? Well, born between 1966 and 1976, gen x, also referred to as the ‘lost generation’ were the ones who were exposed to divorces and daycares. Gen x age range, currently, can be placed somewhere between 44 and 54. This generation has been told to have a lot of scepticism. On the other hand, they are also the ones with the best education. Combine that with experience and they are the best in the market.
3) Good work ethic
5) Highly educated
Who are Generation Y or the Millennials and what years are they born in?
What’s after generation x? Generation y or the millennials. Born between 1980 and 1995, this is the generation that is known to be racially diverse, technologically-wise, and sophisticated. Millennial age group lies between 25 to 40 years of age. With the expansion in media formats, the millennials are also well-versed and aware of their rights.
A question that often pops up is ‘millennials vs gen x.’ To answer, we’d say that millennials are much more flexible than the gen x. This makes them more pliant when it comes to acquiring newer skills. On the short of it, gen x possesses more hands-on experience as compared to the millennials.
4) Highly educated
Who are Generation Z (aka Generation Alpha) and what years are they born in?
This is the present generation, the one that’s booming. Born after 1996, generation Z is the fastest generation, quite literally. They are the ones who are at the top of their game, often at the cost of their mental health. While they come with a plethora of innovation, they lag behind in patience.
Most of the organizations nowadays have a high influx of younger populace, comprising of the millennials and gen z. It mostly includes millennials or gen y and gen x on slightly higher levels of the hierarchy followed by a fast-catching and eager-to-learn gen z. Thus, it is imperative to know the fine line of difference between these generations to make an informed decision and policy with respect to multigenerational workforce management.
Why does the Millennial vs Gen x argument arise?
The difference between the workforce of any generation stems from their upbringing and the factors that affected the same, internal as well as external. This is also where the millennials vs gen x comparison starts from. Apart from the basic age range and generational and evolutionary gap, there are a few more differences between the two generations to be cognizant of:
- Millennials are more economy-savvy and technology-savvy than gen x
- Gen x is more about work-life balance as compared to the millennials
- Gen x sees technology as a learned skill as compared to millennials who see it as an integral one
- Millennials view their managers as equals while gen x seek rewards in the form of promotions
Why does the Gen x vs Gen z argument occur?
There are often the chances of clashes happening between these two generations as well and not just gen z and millennials. Gen x vs gen z is often a little tricky as well, given there is a considerable age and generation gap between the two. Thus, two understand how to deal with their simultaneous presence at an organization, it is important to do away with the debate of gen x vs gen z. To put it in the simplest manner possible, gen z are the children of gen x parents.
- Gen z is light years ahead than gen x when it comes to technology and its usage
- On the other hand, gen x has the patience to acquire that skill over time
- Gen x prefers face to face communication as compared to gen z that is more comfortable communicating via the screen
- Gen z prioritize experience and entertainment which reflects in their working style
- On the other hand, gen x focuses on relationships and quality of customer engagement
All the generations come with their own strengths and weaknesses. A good organization is one that derives its own strength from its multigenerational workforce and uses it to its own advantage.
Challenges of multigenerational workforce
With age comes experience. Thus, boomers are often considered the best when it comes to leadership, followed by generation Y. However, their out-flux and influx of generation y and z is fast. Hence, a deficit of experienced employees is being created in organizations. This is one of the major challenges that come to places with a multigenerational workforce.
The challenges lie in managing the expectations of various generations. Take a look at the following:
- Communication: Boomers and gen x employees are used to a generation that was brought up in the era of telegram and wired telephones and prefers face to face conversations. While they find instant messaging an inconvenience, gen z excels in it, with the millennials or gen y trying to catch up and mostly getting it because of their pliant attitude. This is where the challenge lies.
- Work ethics: Again, while boomers and gen x employees are usually sticklers for rules and have extremely strong work ethics, gen z believes in a more flexible and creative way of working which may sometimes cross the line. Gen y, again, falls in the middle and usually adapts to the situation.
- Feedback expectations: Boomers and gen x employees, mostly, expect feedback in a monetary and tangible form, something which is substantial and not frivolous in nature. Unlike gen z, they are not the ones to be wooed by coupons or free Friday nights. Millennials or gen y, on the other hand, just want their value to be acknowledged. They are the ones who crave maximum validation to keep their motivation up.
- Conflict resolutions: Boomers and gen x employees are the ones who quite adhere to a union system and thus want the consensus of the entire team while resolving a conflict. On the other hand, gen z employees are extremely independent and in case of a conflict, solve it directly instead of waiting for anyone else. Gen y or the millennials need coaching when it comes to solving conflicts.
- Generation stereotypes: Every generation comes with a set of stereotypes that are pitted against them. This can also lead to generational discrimination in the workplace. While keeping a general profile helps human resource management deal with them, this can become quite a challenge in the absence of an open and pliant management.
You can see from the aforementioned that the generation gap amidst boomers, gen x y z and more is more in terms of how they react to different situations. Thus, to bring them and their perspective in sync with the organization’s vision, the management needs to address these challenges.
What is generation gap?
Generation gap can be defined as an age difference which also leads to a difference in values and opinions and affects the skillset and attitude of the people, depending on which generation they belong to.
A workplace age gap can often lead to disagreements which may seldom stem from professional issues but often tend to get personal. Further, these gaps tend to create a huge caveat between employees of different ages, thus defeating the purpose of working together to achieve one common goal; that of being in sync with the organization’s mission and vision.
Thus, how can an organization try bridging the generation gap and manage a multigenerational workforce? For starters, it is important to understand the components of it.
How to bridge the generation gap in workforce?
Is it possible to accommodate all the generations in the workforce? Well, yes. However, one has to address all the challenges and ensure that no generation’s employees are stereotyped. Here are a few ways in which that can be done.
This is the first step towards a peaceful multigenerational workforce management. Some of the most common stereotypes are that boomers are not open to changes, or that gen z is not open to being guided. Agreed, that certain general traits should be known and noted for effective management, but those should not come in the way of effective decision-making, especially when there is individual evidence to prove the contrary.
Training courses are always good. There can be separate learning courses curated for various age groups as well as mixed group ones. There should be no condescending way of training in any group. Instead, it should encourage an atmosphere of mutual learning where each generation can bring forth its area of expertise and everyone can learn a thing or two.
Create a culture of respect
And this culture should be created regardless of age and any such parameter. Every generation expects a certain decorum. A little bit of push here and there and that can be achieved. Boomers and gen x expect respect, gen y expects validation, and gen z instant appreciation. Everyone should mutually respect each other for the contributions they make.
Young boss, senior subordinate
Now, this is a tricky yet common situation. The influx of gen y and z is much more than that of boomers and gen x who are slowly inching towards retirement. In such cases, many times, younger employees turn managers to older subordinates. In such situations, mutual respect should be encouraged and the bosses should be trained to accept suggestions and transfer of experience from their older subordinates and peers. Their experience is valuable and they should know that.
Apart from this, a culture of ‘listen first, talk later,’ along with encouraging employees to be more receptive towards feedback should be present. All of it, together, makes working with multiple generations a pleasant experience, one that can really push the boundaries for the organization.
What is multigenerational workforce management?
Now that you know that a multigenerational workforce comprises various generations under workforce, know what managing a multigenerational workforce is.
Multigenerational workforce management refers to a process wherein all the generations, with their skillset and attitudes are brought in sync so that they are aligned well with the organization’s objectives and goals. This is done while keeping in mind their sentiments and the company’s ethical values.
Working with multiple generations in the workplace is by no means an easy feat. However, if you know how to play your cards right, multigenerational workforce management can actually turn out to extremely fruitful for the organization. You should only know how to bridge the generation gap in your workplace.
You are now ready to manage your multigenerational workforce
Now you understand a little more about the different age groups of people in your team and what makes them tick. Understanding a little more about the cultural context in which each generation came of age will help you better motivate your team. The latest survey by AARP suggests that 83% of the executives agree that the key to an organization’s growth lies in managing a multigenerational workforce.
Yes, the future lies in effectively managing a multigenerational workforce. The key to understanding them is to strike a balance between the stereotypes, to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
Does your organization have a multigenerational workforce? How is it managed? Do tag us at @HarmonizeHQ and let us know.