Multigenerational workforces require attentive leadership

Today’s workforce comprises workers from multiple generations, each of which is characterized by unique skills, traits and motivators.

That can be troublesome for business leaders who try to manage each employee the same. To achieve a high level of productivity, company leaders must learn how to harness each individual’s talents without displacing workers from any of the other three generations.

Dennis Sabol, Vistage Chair at Vistage International, says with the larger baby boomer population receding from the workplace, millenials will be the dominant generation in the workforce by 2020.

“Unless employers address this unique generation, they will not be able to attract and retain a workforce,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Sabol about leading a multigenerational workforce and understanding the tendencies of millenials.

Why should leaders be aware of the tendencies of each generation?

One reason business leaders should be mindful of generational differences is because each generation has unique motivators. For example, those within Generation X are concerned with work/life balance; millennials want schedule flexibility because technology allows work to happen anytime, which makes the typical 9-5 shift too rigid; and boomers will work more than 40 hours to show their superiors that they’re willing to put in the time.

Millennials believe that their performance should be measured on results, not time.

They’re typically not motivated by money and they may have 12 jobs before they’re 35.

Boomers, on the other hand, tend to gauge performance based on hours worked. This generation is motivated by money and often work at the expense of time with their families to get money and status.

Workers from Generation X have a tendency to work hard during their scheduled hours but are put off if they’re asked to work overtime because they need a work/life balance.
Given these motivational differences, employers must create a work environment that’s productive while accommodating the tendencies of multiple generations.

What can be done to ensure generational differences are respected?

To appreciate the difference between the workers from each generation, have an open dialogue with employees to understand their unique needs. That can go a long way toward getting everyone to appreciate everyone else’s value.

There may, for example, be a perception by boomers that millennials are slackers. It may instead be the case that these workers have found better ways to get their jobs done and they don’t care to sit at their desk until after the boss leaves to show how hard they work.

Business leaders may need to rethink the perks and benefits they offer employees. For example, companies traditionally don’t offer a lot of vacation time for someone in their first year of employment. To appeal to the generations that are more interested in personal time than money, consider offering them one week of vacation with pay and one week without pay to start if two weeks paid vacation is not part of your policy.

What are some management techniques that generate a high level of productivity while respecting generational differences?

Most people stay at a job because they like their manager. Managers, then, need to relate to their employees better, get to know more about them and not treat them like a number.

Employees who feel they have a great boss that respects and values them are more likely to stick around.

Have flexibility in your management techniques so you can cater your style to the personalities that exist in your company. But that flexibility must be coupled with accountability. Employees need to know what’s expected of them and what their responsibilities are regardless of their generation.

As generational diversity increases in the workplace it’s important to understand that each person working at your company has their own motivators and tendencies. You can’t change their personalities, but you can shape their behaviors by steering their talents into opportunities for growth for them and the company.

Align the strengths of your company and your management with those of your employees for mutually beneficial outcomes. ●

Insights Leadership is brought to you by Vistage International Inc.