Today’s workforce is, more than ever, a mélange made up of many different people that cross multiple generations. From your oldest workers who may still remember the Second World War, to those who were born just before the turn of the century and, if you’re in the tech business, maybe even some who were born after!
Each of these individuals comes with their own personalities and preferences, but also with general characteristics that can be tied to the generation of which they are a part. As a leader in today’s market, you need to know how to engage each generation, while also helping them to work together. This means being able to:
- Recognize the different norms individuals from different generations will bring to their place of work;
- Understanding the different general expectations for what they need from an employer;
- Delivering training through channels that will engages different generations;
- Pursuing alternative incentives for different generations as ways to increase retention and loyalty; and
- Be aware of the different motivators to ensure you’re bringing out the best from everyone in your workforce.
While managing for generational differences may sound like the latest fad, or just another organizational development scheme, ignoring these differences as a leader could mean the difference between your success and failure.
Consider for a moment the issue of communication, and take as an example where you would like to talk with a member of your team about what you just learned at a recent conference. If this were outside the office, you wouldn’t expect to explain the conference in the same way to your mother – or grandmother – as you would to your child, or grandchild. You would use different words, focus on different themes and you might even use different methods (a post card to mom, but a text to the grandkids). You see where I’m going – generational differences are important and play a role in how you lead and manage a team.
To be an effective leader in this area, you first need to know how to identify generations and know general characteristics of each:
Silent Generation: These individuals, born between 1925-1942, unsurprisingly, now make up the smallest portion of the workforce and will soon be completely gone. However, if you still have some Silents on your team, you should know that they are conformist and believe that the rules are there for a reason: to be followed.
Baby Boomers: Boomers, born between 1943-1964, still make up a health 29% of the workforce, especially since many people are working past retirement out of necessity or some other reason. These people are natural protesters and individualistic by nature, given their generally non-conformist past.
Generation X: This generation defies definition and makes up 34% of the workforce. In fact, they dare you to define them. Born between 1965 – 1979, engaging with GenXers has always been a challenge because of their need for individuality and space.
Millennials: Sometimes referred to as “Generation Y,” this group, born between 1980-2000, is now the largest sector of the workforce at just over 34%. They’ve been often labeled as narcissistic and entitled, but they also have a strong need for purpose and are interested in working for the betterment of the whole. They are massively dependent on technology.
Generation Z: Very few of these individuals are in the workforce yet (1% or less). Born between 2001-2013, these individuals are also known as the iGeneration because of their ease with technology and independent nature.
As you can see from the above, each generation has its own needs and characteristics. Engaging your team across these generational differences is a best practice for any successful leader.