How to Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce?
Today’s one of the biggest managerial dare is to get three generations work together. Everywhere through Europe managers are struggling with the challenges of managing a workforce increasingly diverse.
Armed with « Blackberry », laptops, cellphones and other gadgets, generation Y is connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Flexibility and personal priorities seem very important for this generation. However, they lack confidence and need supervision structures in order to achieve their work, especially because they are still very young and inexperienced.
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Kaltrina Lloncari *
A lack of understanding regarding generational differences contributes to conflict within working relationships, lowers productivity, and increases turnover. The company is the only place where three generations are forced to spend 35 hours or more together per week. And everyone wanting to keep its specificities, the risk of a « Generational Clash » is large, almost inevitable. To avoid this, employers must learn, understand and value the perspectives and objectives of employees in all age groups.
There are three predominant generations on the workplace today: Baby-boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, Generation X, born between 1965 and 1976, and Generation Y, born after 1977. Each generation brings unique work habits that shape our markets. They all have distinct set of values, a different view of authority and sense of loyalty and must be motivated and managed differently. Managers must deal with extremes, from Baby-boomers generation, which is the oldest in the workplace and in general holds most of the knowledge of this company, to the Generation Y, which now brings an air of freshness to companies, and has large and innovative technological capabilities crucial for a company to keep a competitive advantage in its market. And in between there are the members of the Generation X, who are an important pillar for each company.
DIFFERENT GENERATIONS, DIFFERENT CHARACTERISTICS !
Major events in history such as changing social or economic factors have influenced the attitudes and values of individuals or groups of individuals. These events were considered as important factors that impacted the various generations.
The end of the Second World War marked the beginning of the Baby-boomer’s generation. They grew up at a time when mothers stayed home and fathers went to work. The Baby-boomers have experienced a period of economic and cultural expansion and saw the advent of television which means they have also experienced the Vietnam War and the space race. They are seen as workaholic, very concerned about material gain, promotion and high salaries. The are considered as advocating individual rights, with a high sense of loyalty, idealistic and optimistic. They are team-oriented and very interested in the creation of long-term relationships. A review of existing literature suggests that employees in this group value on-job security and a stable working environment.
The Generation X is in overall better educated than the Baby-boomers. The mentality of the Generation X reflects the transition from a manufacturing to a service economy. They faced the rising national debt and increasing drug’s consumption. They also experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall, which marked the end of the Cold War. The members of this generation are considered as economically conservative as they have experienced major periods of inflation during their youth. In the workplace, Generation X, preaches values of freedom and responsibility. They appreciate if they are given the freedom and flexibility to manage their time to accomplish their work. This generation seeks for a work life balance, and hope that their work procures them pleasure and fun.
Concerning the Generation Y, conflicting opinions exist. From one side some researchers believe that this generation brings new fresh air to companies, on the other side they are seen as "spoiled children" with unrealistic claims. Thanks to Erasmus exchange programs and great opportunities to study and work abroad, members of this generation have a greater openness to the world, they work as an international team. Armed with « Blackberry », laptops, cellphones and other gadgets, generation Y is connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Flexibility and personal priorities seem very important for this generation. However, they lack confidence and need supervision structures in order to achieve their work, especially because they are still very young and inexperienced. The members of this generation are described as optimistic and strongly committed to fulfilling personal goals. They expect a work environment that encourages their contribution and where they can have an impact. They seek a balance between work and private life and look for a workplace that is both fun and rewarding. Children, members of the generation Y have participated in team sports, and other group activities, so they like teamwork and collective action.
HOW TO HANDLE WITH THE DILEMMA ?
- Accommodate employee differences : it is important to treat the employees like customers. Managers must try to learn about their employees, learn their specificities and preferences in order to accommodate issues like personal scheduling needs, work/life balance, …
- Adapt sophisticated management style : managers should provide clear and precise guidance, goals, measures to those who are under their authority. Giving feedback and appropriate rewards and recognition are more than important for any company that wants to keep a good working atmosphere ;
- Promote and respect competence and initiative: each employee, from the newest recruit to the most seasoned, from the youngest to the oldest, has to be treated as if they have all great things to offer. However managers and human resources managers must ensure to hire carefully the right person in order to assure a good match between employees and the company ;
- Foster retention : keeping good and valuable employee has become for today’s economy as important as finding and retaining customers. So, it is more than crucial for company leaders to make sure that they can offer lots of training, coaching and favor lateral movement and broader assignment to their best employees.
* Kaltrina Lloncari is a member of the Writing Team at ThinkYoung, the first think-tank concerned with young Europeans.