How to Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce

Maria - Blog

Today, running a business involves dealing with many kinds of people and age groups. There have always been multiple generations in the workplace, but currently we’re experiencing four generations working together - the largest diversity of generations represented than any other time in history!

The differing generational values, work ethics, and financial perspectives can make our jobs in management quite challenging but how we manage these differences is most important. Roles are being redefined and rules are being rewritten daily. Change is inevitable and we need to recognise the positive impact a multi-generational workforce can have on our company’s success.

Day-to-day I witness how the youth feed off the experienced – their knowledge, their wise ways of the world and their years of experience gained. I see this being reciprocated, as the experienced feed off the youth’s enthusiasm, their energy and their technically advanced and innovative minds. It’s a good balance but it’s up to us as leaders and managers to create an environment that stimulates and nurtures these relationships to increase the synergy within our teams. The roles of older and younger workers are continually being modified and increasingly we are seeing older, experienced generations being led and mentored by the youth… It’s reality.

I read that the US Marine Corps routinely put 22-year old lieutenants in charge of 45 year-old sergeants. The mind-set behind this is apparently to encourage ‘partnership’ as opposed to one leading and the other following. It’s a more collaborative approach that uses discussion and engagement. Studies have shown that colleagues learn more from each other than they do from formal training. I think we need to understand that in order to create a happy and productive multi-generational work environment we need to realise that what has worked in the past might not work anymore.These four generations share some traditional work values but differ in opinion on the role of the manager, issues of loyalty, technical competence, and how much time must be spent on the job to define a good day’s work.

Right now, we need to focus on how we can reshape our thinking and collectively find the right way. As a company, we are always growing and as we go through the different stages of growth, the make-up of our workforce changes too. The more we understand the unique work ethic, goals and perspectives of each generation, the more effective we can be as managers.

Business is challenging enough but understanding the context in which each generation was created provides vital information for understanding how to recruit, train, and retain employees. Let’s recognise what an asset we have! Get in touch if you have any questions.