There are more differences between Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials than the technology they grew up using – whether it was landline phones, cassette recorders, or hosted virtual desktops. Each generation has a different culture and approach to life, including their work and careers. Successful managers of an age-diverse workforce understand each generation’s culture and how to coax the best work possible from employees, regardless of their age and outlook.
While generalizations can be tricky, workplace experts have a few basic characteristics that can describe many members of each generation. Baby Boomers, likely the oldest employees in the workforce, tend to be competitive and believe employees should work their way up the food chain. Gen Xers are extremely independent, and tend to be unimpressed with soaring rhetoric and big promises. Millennials, the youngest generation of workers, prefer a collaborative work atmosphere and plenty of feedback from their supervisors.
To effectively manage workers of differing generations, managers must be cognizant of generational differences, while also avoiding stereotyping or disadvantaging workers based on age. Building relationships among workers of differing generations can help, as older workers can mentor their younger colleagues, and younger workers can bring fresh eyes to projects or processes.
Learning how your workers learn is also important. Older workers tend to prefer more traditional forms of instruction, such as seminars and presentations, while younger workers like Web-based interactive training programs. Millennials prefer telecommuting options, and older workers may often prefer communicating via a phone call rather than an email or text. Pretty much everyone would like fewer meetings, especially if they’re not necessary.
By finding ways to bridge generational divides, managers can get better results from their employees, and avoid issues with retention and productivity that plague companies that don’t understand how workers of differing generations perform their best labor.
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