Tips for managing a multi-generational workforce
Most organizations now have three to four generations in their workforce; Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z, and it's easy to get caught up in the differences, but at the end of the day, people are people. If you start to silo them too much into "buckets," you'll lose sight of the bigger picture.
There are plenty of Baby Boomers who don't fit the "mold" of how boomers are stereotyped, just like there are plenty of Millennials who don't fit the stereotypes made about them, either. An understanding of the different generations, their preferences and how they work is helpful as a background so managers can empathize with where an employee is coming from, but it shouldn't be the only thing guiding you in how you manage. Instead, below are three ways to successfully manage a multigenerational workforce.
Don't allow generational characteristics define how you manage. There are plenty of reputable publications that have written about the different generations in the workforce. Whether it's Harvard Business Review, Pew Research or other go-to publications, read what is out there to get a basic understanding of the ways the different generations are characterized. This knowledge can help managers understand how to help their employees through challenges and gain better insight into team dynamics in order to develop a cohesive, successful team. Again, the knowledge that's available about the different generations shouldn't guide your management decisions, but just give you a background for where employees may be coming from.
Get to know your people. How a person acts and what their values and interests are may or may not correlate with how their generation has been characterized. It's crucial to get to know your people as people in order to manage them effectively. Have regular meetings with staff, open up and be vulnerable with employees. That way, they know they can do the same. Go on an outing together, whether it's for coffee, drinks or just a walk around the block. Work and life go hand in hand, so talk to them about their family, their interests and hobbies and open up about your own personal interests, as well. Find out how they like to work, their favorite projects, any issues they're dealing with in the office. People want to know their managers care about them. The best managers are those who focus on building genuine relationships with staff and help their people work in the way that is best for them.
Manage based on motivators. Each individual has distinct motivators. It's up to managers to identify what those are and use them to challenge staff and figure out how to get the most out of their people. Generational traits only go so far and sometimes they may not align with a person's identity at all. Pay attention to what gets your people excited, what makes them happy, when are they most energized and how they respond to challenging situations. Not all Millennials are motivated by competition, just like not all Baby Boomers are motivated by money. It's not about generations, it's about who each individual is as a person.
At the end of the day, generational characteristics are just that, generalizations. They don't apply to everyone and may not even apply to anyone in your organization, so take them with a grain of salt.
• Maureen Hoersten is Chief Operating Officer for LaSalle Network in Chicago