If you’re a boomer manager at a firm or nonprofit or a small business owner, you may be experiencing some workplace challenges handling a three-generation workforce: Millennials, Gen X’ers and boomers.
This year, according to the Pew Research Center, Millennials surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, with 53.5 million on the job. Gen X is a close second at 52.7 million, while the ranks of boomers have shrunk to 44.6 million.
How the Generations Differ at Work
There are a few notable workplace differences among the three generations:
Millennials (Gen Y) in their 20s and 30s may have a bad rap for being self-centered, but this group is more likely than other generations to care about company ethics and volunteer policies.
Gen X’ers in their 40s and early 50s are known for being independent, resourceful and results-oriented in the workplace. They appreciate learning opportunities of all kinds.
Boomers recognize the institutional knowledge they have to share and 75 percent of Millennials are interested in having a mentor.
Boomers are reaching retirement age (some have already retired)), but large numbers of this generation plan to stay active in the workforce for years.
There are obstacles in managing a group containing both older and younger employees. As a boomer-in-charge, consider these three approaches to successfully bridge the gap:
1. Treat your employees as generational audiences, but keep their individual preferences in mind, too. Don’t make assumptions about employees simply based on the year in which they were born. Not all Millennials love apps and texting and not every boomer wants to read company updates on a wall bulletin board.
A broad range of traits and behaviors can be seen within generations, so use a mix of strategic communications and engagement tactics including print, video, email and social media.
Employee engagement surveys can produce truly educational results. Consider leveraging these surveys to learn even more about your employees’ preferences.
2. Encourage all forms of mentoring, especially reverse mentoring, where older workers learn from younger ones. In addition to helping break down walls in the workplace, facilitating mentoring programs between individuals of different ages enables the transfer of organizational knowledge that comes with many years spent in the workforce.
Boomers and Millennials, in particular, place a lot of importance on mentoring relationships. Boomers recognize the institutional knowledge they have to share and, according to one study, 75 percent of Millennials are interested in having a mentor.
Providing employees with development opportunities is a low-cost benefit as well as an effective retention tool.
3. Increase engagement across generations by embracing technology. More and more, employees are using smartphones and other devices to conveniently access information around pay, HR and benefits. Overlooking these options would be a big mistake.
Leverage social media platforms like intranet sites, online communities and instant messaging to enhance your team’s collaboration. Initiating an online group chat every so often will encourage team members to share ideas and information quickly, too. These types of steps are especially helpful when it comes to engaging with employees who work remotely.
Multigenerational workforces create a natural diversity in the workplace, providing employees with the opportunity to work together with individuals from different backgrounds and with varied experiences. This diversity has the potential to offer new, out-of-the-box ways to solve problems and innovate.
Overall, employers looking to effectively manage and engage a multigenerational workforce need to break down the silos between generations. The goal: Create an environment where all generations benefit, and your organization will profit from the improved workplace culture.
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