'Age Is Just a Number' -- Wrong! Six Ways to Manage Different Generations

'Age Is Just a Number' -- Wrong! Six Ways to Manage Different Generations

September 2016

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It is well documented that Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are competitive, have a high work ethic, are loyal and well used to the concept of working up through the ranks.  Generation X (born 1965-1977) are known as the latchkey generation – due to both parents working and so having to let themselves into the home after school – and are skeptical, independently-minded and adaptable to change.  Generation Y or Millennials (born 1978-mid 2000s) are confident, tolerant, team players and have high expectations yet seek a much better work/life balance than generations before.  Note that these date ranges vary slightly dependent upon the source, but are considered generally correct.

This is the workforce today, a diverse group of people with different communication styles, different mindsets, different needs, desires and aspirations.

Of course, the descriptions above are stereotypes and take no account of individualities, but if you are managing a large group of people, these guidelines can be useful until you get to know each person better.

So how on earth do we manage them all and remain fair to each cohort and avoid risks such as poor performance, staff retention and maybe even legal problems with claims of unfair treatment?

As managers it’s up to us to change and adapt to their differences in order to achieve a productive and effective team of people.

Just to complicate things further, there is an additional piece of information for you to consider.  Different ages at different stages.  Each generation will be at a different stage in their lives.

The Boomers may be considering a transition phase from work to retirement, so would like to work part-time.  Can you accommodate this or will they leave and take their unique knowledge and experience with them?

Generation X are likely to have children at school and their thoughts will be on school plays, sports days or perhaps hospital appointments with them.  Is your company flexible enough for them to attend these extremely important events as long as they get the job done?

And the Millennials, they are ambitious and often seek extra training or learning on the job, so they welcome the opportunity to contribute more than their job spec.  Do you finance or give time for them to continue learning?

Whilst on the subject of learning, it is a mistake to believe that older people no longer have the need or (as some think) the ability to keep learning.  This way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth.   Everyone wants to learn new ways of doing things, it may take some a little longer, but if you help them feel confident they will be energized and excited that you wish to invest in them and studies show that work performance increases substantially.

Here are 6 ways in which you can easily manage and develop your deliciously different employees and reap the rewards each cohort brings to the table.

  1. Offer learning materials in different formats to adapt to the learning styles of different age groups. Books, audio books, presentations, workshops, seminars, CDs, MP3s, webinars, streaming video, conferences.  Ask how they prefer to learn and deliver the information to suit them best.
  1. Arrange for a cross-generational mentoring program to be put in place. What better way for people to learn from one another and increase levels of understanding.  A great way to develop cohesion and collaboration as well as increasing creativity and solutions outputs.
  1. Point 2 also leads to everyone feeling equal in their contribution and encourages healthy discussion.
  1. Have you noticed that we find out so much about people at their funerals? Just after the eulogy you often hear “I didn’t know he/she did xyz”.   How sad is that?  When we know more about people, we develop a new respect.  So why not have a meeting a month whereby everyone takes it in turns to say something unusual about themselves, work related or otherwise.  I encouraged this recently and the youngest member of staff was in awe that an older person was once an international rugby coach.  Their relationship improved and so did their productivity.
  1. Rather than worry about how much time people spend in the office, focus on what they are achieving, even if working from home or in a coffee bar around the corner from their children’s schools. If they can get to that school play, they are likely to work twice as hard.  But be careful not to encourage isolation as this can create a different set of problems, so being in the office for a reasonable amount of working time is important.
  1. Every single person on the planet wants to feel valuable and valid. How do you tell your people how well they have done?  The Baby Boomers are likely to prefer a small announcement as public recognition is important to them.  This may not be so necessary for younger members of staff, but they all want know they are doing a good job, so find out their preference.

As we get older we may like to think of age as just a number, but it isn’t.  It is something that needs to be constantly addressed as time moves on.  If you can adapt your management styles with your different age groups and can accommodate your staff as they progress towards the next stage in their lives and their needs change, you will have a strong foundation for an effective and happy workforce.

 

This article was written by Lynda Shaw from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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