Managing a Multigenerational Workforce

by | 28 Jul, 2016

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Workplaces today are facing a problem that was not very common in the past– multigenerational workforces. With people working well into their 70s and 80s, more and more companies are experiencing generational gaps, with their employees spanning as many as five generations. Each generation has some different characteristics, and these differences can create challenges for the HR professionals who are responsible for retaining employees from all generations with enticing incentives, rewards, and benefits packages. To best serve all generations of employees, HR professionals must first understand what makes each generation unique and how this transfers over to the workplace and communication preferences of the employees.

Here are the 5 generations in consideration:

  • Traditionalists (born before 1946)- the Traditionalists comprise 4% of the labor force, and because many joined the workforce in the aftermath of the Great Depression, they view work as a privilege. This generation tends to prefer managers who are clear in their expectations and logical in approaching workplace challenges. Organizations should focus on personal contact and show respect for this group’s age and experience
  • Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)- Baby Boomers are currently the largest generation in the workforce. Motivated by rank and wealth, they tend to be goal-oriented and competitive. HR professionals should focus on offering members of this generation flexible working arrangements and phased retirement plans to encourage them to stay in the workforce longer.
  • Generation X (born 1965-1979)- This generation saw the birth of the internet, and thus is technically proficient, adaptive, and independent. They prefer a “hands-off” management approach and value ongoing training and opportunities for growth.
  • Millennials (born 1985-2000)- this fast-growing generation will comprise a large percentage of the workforce by 2020. They are the most diverse generation and are strongly shaped by the Internet. They expect immediate information and often reject top-down communication styles. They prefer managers who take time to understand and help them reach their personal and professional goals.
  • Generation Z (born 1996-on)- this generation is just beginning to enter the workforce. That being said, they tend to favor having a positive impact more than other generations. They also may place more value in work experience than education.

It is necessary to understand these generational differences, as doing so will have positive impacts across the company, especially in employee recruitment and retention. It is important to remember, however, that just because an employee is a member of a certain generation does not mean that they will fit the mold or stereotype of that generation’s wants and needs. There is a potential for negative stereotyping in multigenerational workplaces, so companies need to take steps to ensure that negative unconscious biases are overcome. This means that rather than alienating the generations from one another, organizations should honor each generation’s strengths while still focusing on their similarities.

Companies can make the most of multigenerational workforces in several ways. First, HR professionals should consider each generation’s communication styles and preferences, and gear messaging to fit these preferences. They should also create programs that encourage cooperation and knowledge sharing amongst generations. Teams should be diverse–comprised of people from all ages, cultures, and gender–and business managers at all levels of the organization should be flexible in their management styles.

One thing that employers should keep in mind is that despite differences, most employees do all want one thing– to be engaged in the workplace and to have a manager who takes an educational approach, acting as a coach and helping them reach their career goals. Thus, a real-time performance management system that allows for feedback and growth opportunities is very beneficial.

Navigate is a full-service PEO in Massachusetts and can help with all your outsourced HR services. If you’re looking for ways to increase productivity and profitability for your small business, please feel free to reach out to us to see how our HR and payroll services can help.

Tom DiSilva
Tom DiSilva has been providing professional human resource services for over 30 years. As the CEO of Navigate PEO, he actively partners with organizations of all sizes in the Greater New England area and across the country to help their businesses grow. He has expertise in HR and Labor Management, offering guidance and support for key areas of business such as negotiations, operations management, employee coaching, and employee benefits design. He is an active member of The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), The National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), Professional Association of Co-Employers (PACE), and The American Payroll Association (APA). He is deeply committed to giving back to the community both personally and through Navigate Cares, which provides support for several nonprofit organizations such as the USO, The Boys & Girls Club, and the 3Point Foundation.

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Disclaimer: this article does not represent expert advice and is provided for informational purposes. Please get in touch if you would like expert HR advice.