Working with Different Generations

Having multiple generations in the workforce at once is nothing new. One generation retires and another enters right behind them. Even though companies have always dealt with this, the differences seem to be increasing relating to values, communication, and work habits. With rapid technological advances, these differences appear more prominent between the baby boomers through the millennials. So how should companies handle all of the differences between these generations?

Understanding and addressing these differences is essential to create harmony in the workforce. Baby boomers, in general, are extremely loyal and have no problem putting in extra hours to get the job done. On the other side of the spectrum, you have the millennials who generally are tech-savvy, goal-oriented individuals who look for opportunities to advance their career. Knowing this gives companies a better understanding of what their employees need and want out of their company.

Challenges will arise when merging multiple generations, but it is completely possible to build an environment that balances all generations’ desires. Here are some examples of what your company could do to accommodate for different generations:

  • Educate your managers. It will be much easier to educate managers on how to adapt to different generations than to try to change employees to eliminate differences.
  • Focus on results, not how things are getting done. Allowing things like telecommuting and working offsite gives the younger generations the flexibility they seek without taking away the structure and familiarity from the older generations that like being in the office every day.
  • Recognize what they value. Younger generations and older generations are very different when it comes to what they value in the workplace. Baby boomers value working as a team and working for a company they love. Millennials value flexibility in a job and being able to grow and learn as an individual.
  • Give meaningful feedback. Having a meaningful and “high up” title is a great way for the older generations to feel recognized. They enjoy public recognition and appreciate when they are rewarded for hard work, but they don’t seek feedback very often. Unlike the older generation, younger employees seek recognition from their authority figures and value helpful feedback.

Knowing these key differences is half the battle; finding a good balance and using them to your company’s advantage is another. Each generation has useful, unique skills and characteristics that can really complement one another when under good management. Keeping these differences in mind will allow all of your employees of all generations to shine in the workplace.

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