Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to Manage Different Generations

Managers are increasingly struggling with generational differences in their workforce. Problems arise from not only the different mindsets across generations, but also new technology and work patterns that are mixed in among those of different age groups.

Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are competitive and insist workers of all ages should pay their dues. Generation X-ers, born between 1965 and 1977, tend to be more skeptical and independent-minded. Gen Ys, or Millennials, born in 1978 or later crave teamwork, technology, and feedback.

The key to working with the different thinking and practices among the generations is to be able to address and use the differences to your advantage. Here are some strategies:
Rather than trying to change your staff, update managers. Have them participate in training or classes to recognize generational differences.

Establish mentoring practices between employees of different ages. Younger employees can learn from the experience and wisdom that older employees have gained. Older employees can learn to be open and gain fresh perspectives from younger employees.

Accommodate different learning styles. Baby Boomers may prefer more traditional and static training methods, while younger workers may favor more interactive, technology based forms of learning.

Create recognition programs. Even the simplest gesture, such as a positive email, can help boost Gen Xers’ productivity. Boomers tend to seek status, so may respond best to an office wide email applauding their accomplishments. Millennials seek validation, so they will appreciate increased responsibility and may also prefer frequent reviews of their work.

Don’t apply a blanket communication-method policy. Boomers may prefer communication by phone or in person, while Millennials are comfortable with being in constant communication such as emailing, texting, or instant messaging.

While creating a work atmosphere to accommodate the different attitudes across the generations, it’s also important not to confuse issues like immaturity and laziness with generational traits. Baby Boomers may see a 60-hour work week as the only route to success while many hard working Millennials may prefer a more balanced work life that includes reasonable working hours with occasional time off, but may be more than willing to make up time in a more unstructured setting, such as catching up at a Starbucks on the weekend.

1 comment:

  1. As a Baby Boomer, I'd rather not deal with “Millennials” who only communicate via IM and texting and need constant positive reinforcement. I know I have done a good job when a project is completed on time and under budget. No one has to coddle me. I think “Millennials” may be a little too indulged.