Managing the Perfect Storm of Multi-Generational Teams
By Gary L. Bozza
Today’s workplace has an added element that is making some waves: three generations of employees on the same teams. Millennials (also known as Generation Y), Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers are often working together now, and that’s not always easy for any of them. Friction seems to be most commonly reported in the areas of communication, and work style.
Baby Boomers are famous for their work ethic. Coming in early and staying late are trademarks of a Baby Boomer seeking to impress their manager. This same Baby Boomer probably feels obligated to remain in the same role for three or more years. Baby Boomers, however, don’t want to take work home, and as we mentioned earlier, don’t think working from home is a desirable (or responsible) option. They prefer face-to-face conversations or phone calls.
Millennials, on the other hand, thrive in a flexible working environment. They expect to be able to work from home (or other remote locations). If the work gets done, why does it matter where the team member is? That said, they do also enjoy collaborative work when it’s necessary. But as far as communicating with them outside those brainstorming sessions? Keep it short and sweet. Think text, chat, and instant messaging. Millennials really don’t have the job loyalty of their more seasoned co-workers. Once they’ve learned how to perform well at their current role, they feel ready to take on the next one, even if it’s only been 12-15 months. One more big difference: Millennials love transparency. Think of all the status updates they make in their personal social media accounts. Doing the same at work is a natural for them.
Gen Xers are caught in the middle. They, too, desire some flex time and a better work-life balance, but they don’t care too much for being passed up by Millennials for promotions. Gen Xers don’t mind working for someone younger, but may be thinking, I paid my dues. Why did so-and-so get the promotion instead of me? Gen Xers still tend to feel more comfortable with a structured managerial hierarchy, preferably one that isn’t shifting all the time. They also bristle at the idea of micromanagement (what your Millennials call transparency), especially from a younger manager. The Gen Xer is competent, why doesn’t their Millennial manager trust them?
To help you navigate the seas of this new personnel phenomena, we offer some tips.
Managers of multi-generational teams need to communicate with each group in their preferred method. Millennials prefer chat, text, and instant messaging. Gen Xers prefer email. And Baby Boomers think you should pop in their office or use the phone to reach them. You need to be flexible and adopt these various communication methods.
A second tip would be to set all your employees up for success by allowing them the flexibility to work in the manner that best suits them. Millennials may want a large percentage of their time to be remote, or after hours. Gen Xers may want Fridays off. Baby Boomers may still want you to notice that they are in early despite the terrible weather that has their younger co-workers staying home. This is all fine. Your personnel will work best and most efficiently when free to do so in their comfort zone.
Thirdly, effective managers need to be diligent about uncovering and addressing issues where these differences may be causing conflict. Not only do you need to be aware and sensitive to all these different working styles, you need to educate your team about them, as well. That said, members of a multi-generational team need to be able to compromise and show some flexibility when dealing with colleagues from a different era.
And lastly, the one thing that all groups love are celebrations. Summer pool party? Yes! Monthly birthday parties in the break room? Yes! Holiday cocktail gatherings? Yes! Getting your team together to have fun will help break down the age barriers. Team building can be fun, especially if no one really realizes it’s happening. And remember to reward employees, regardless of work style, for their successes.
We hope we’ve given you some tools to make your management style one of (mostly) smooth sailing.
Gary Bozza, founder and managing partner of WorldBridge Partners Chicago NW, has been winning industry awards and recognition in talent acquisition for 20 years. He is also a certified culture advisor (Culture Measures Certified Partner) and as such, provides the tools, training, and support you need to ascertain your business’s culture. With a proprietary software & unique employee survey, he can examine the 12 Essential Elements of High Performing Organizations and provide you an accurate read on what your employees are really thinking and feeling about your culture. These metrics offer significant insight to an owner or president as to where they can quickly improve culture and therefore ensure the overall attractiveness and performance of their company. You can reach Gary at 847.550.1300 x33 firstname.lastname@example.org.