A wide range of age groups is represented in today's workforce. They are often required to collaborate to get things done. This type of workforce is known as a multi-generational workforce, and it can offer employers a variety of opportunities as well as challenges.
Employees of all generations bring different aspirations and personal experiences to the workplace. This can be especially difficult for managers who lead teams of workers from diverse generations. It's not just about getting the best out of your staff but also about ensuring everyone has a positive work experience.
This article will provide an overview of each generation and advice for dealing with and managing them in the workplace.
What is a multi-generational workforce?
A multi-generational workforce includes workers from many generations. People of all ages are included, both young and old. This can be advantageous in various ways, including encouraging creativity and originality because different age groups bring different perspectives.
Furthermore, multiple generations in the workforce frequently result in more harmonious relationships among employees as they learn how to listen to and interact with one another. These variables contribute to an environment that fosters professional and personal success.
A multi-generational workforce is becoming a reality for many organizations as Gen Z enters the workforce and Gen Alpha approaches. As a result, managers must be prepared to tackle the obstacles of managing different generations in the workplace and leveraging the benefits.
What are the different generations in the workforce?
The workforce is divided into five generations, each bringing unique viewpoints and ideals to the workplace. As a result, companies must manage these multiple generations in the workforce. Here's a primer on the five generations so you can work more effectively with them all:
1. Generation Z
Gen Z is the generation born between around 1996 and 2018. This generation accounts for about 10% of the total workforce in this day and age. They are digital natives, having grown up with technology at their fingertips and having a different outlook on work, life, and relationships than prior generations. They grew up around the technology and enjoyed talking and working with it. They are open to change, desire to interact with people from other cultures, and expect management practices to be tailored to their specific requirements. They strongly prefer flexible working hours and remote job alternatives. As a result, effectively managing Generation Z necessitates comprehending their unique demands, motivations, and beliefs.
2. Generation X
The Generation X demographic refers to those born between the early 1960s and 1980s. Gen X individuals account for 33% of today's workforce. During their early years, this generation witnessed major changes, including political and economic upheavals, which heightened stress and insecurity. There was also a trend away from traditional parenting roles and those of career mothers and fathers.
As a result of growing up between shifting traditions, Generation X has often been portrayed as autonomous, inventive, and resourceful problem solvers. They are naturally enterprising and prefer practicality to idealism or consensus building. These characteristics have helped them excel in various sectors, from business to journalism, despite frequently coming from unusual backgrounds or starting their firms at a young age.
Those born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s are considered members of the millennial generation, often known as Generation Y or the Echo Boomers. This generation has the highest percentage (40%) of working individuals in the workforce today. They are frequently referred to as digital nomads because they grew up when technology was fast altering and influencing their life daily.
As a result of this rapid transition, many Millennials have become fiercely independent thinkers who do not place a high value on institutions such as parents or the government for direction. They also value experience above qualifications and choose jobs that allow them to apply their strengths - creativity, innovation, and commercial acumen - in a continuously changing environment. They are frequently reclusive and refer to themselves as "freelancers."
4. Baby boomers
In today's world, baby boomers account for 15% of the workforce. Those born between 1946 and 1964 are considered members of the baby boomer generation. These are typically over a half-century old or older, implying that they have witnessed major developments over the last few decades! This group has a wealth of experience to offer society, both positive and negative.
The Baby Boomers were born during significant societal change, influencing their lifestyles and spending habits. They promote comfort over fashion, simplicity over extravagance, and community involvement above self-involvement. As a result, they are frequently referred to as disposable consumers who are unwilling to take chances or commit long-term to any one product or trend.
5. Silent generation
The Silent Generation is defined as people born between the mid-1920s and the mid-1940s. This generation accounts for about 2% of the working population today. The Great Depression, World War II, and the post-war economic boom affected this generation. They grew up as America transitioned from a predominantly rural to an increasingly urban civilization. They are also known as the Quiet and Traditionalist Generations.
They grew up when there were more opportunities than ever before. They also grew up when there were no widely available television channels or social media platforms, so they were unaware of many challenges that younger people confront today. Regarding ideas, attitudes, and morality, this generation is frequently considered more conservative than others.
How do you manage multiple generations in the workforce?
While managing multiple generations in the workforce, fully recognizing their strengths and shortcomings is critical. Managers must understand their employees' generational origins and the type of work culture most suited to them to accomplish this. By allowing employees to contribute their opinions and ideas, alternative leadership styles can also assist in bridging the generational gap. The following tactics can be used to maximize the contributions of each generation in your workforce:
1. Recognize the differences
Understanding the variations in work habits and expectations is critical when managing multiple generations in the workforce. For instance, younger employees can value high autonomy and flexibility in their work schedules. But, older workers could be more concerned with advancing their careers and finding stable employment with regular hours. Managers must be aware of these differences to create teams that can accept these disparities.
2. Adapt to various communication styles
Each generation has various qualities and communication styles.
There may be communication challenges between employees when multiple generations are in the workforce. For example, if an employee prefers to send emails to ensure that everything is documented, but the person they communicate with prefers a more informal text message or phone call, there may be miscommunication.
Older generations prefer face-to-face communication and feel dissatisfied when attempts at communication are disregarded or misinterpreted due to the overuse of technology. Newer generations rely on technology for communication, which older generations may find difficult to comprehend.
Corporate communication has evolved into a middle-ground agreement to find common ground and include different communication styles. You should have consistent communication regarding your company voice, but you can seek ways to accommodate varied styles on a smaller scale. Let leaders choose between text-based and video communication techniques based on the needs of their staff. When it comes to one-on-ones, supervisors should have the freedom to approach them individually.
3. Define and reaffirm expectations
A common goal brings people together while minimizing their differences. Employees, regardless of age, want to understand the company's aims and role in these endeavours.
Managers must create channels for communicating expectations on an ongoing basis. They should also provide employees certainty about what they may expect from the organization and their team.
Constructive feedback from executives encourages employees to be accountable and improve their skills. Employees might feel confident that they have headed on the right path thanks to this style of guidance.
4. Gather feedback
Because not everyone is comfortable providing unsolicited input, you must devise methods to encourage honest feedback that shows the pulse of your multi-generational workforce. You should provide these possibilities through surveys, performance evaluations, one-on-one meetings, or other innovative techniques.
To better manage multiple generations in the workforce, you can learn what you need to improve by knowing how engaged individuals feel and how they perform.
5. Accommodate a range of working styles
There is no universally applicable solution when it comes to addressing multiple generations in the workforce to work productively. Companies that can adapt to their employees' demands are more likely to recruit and retain the best talent available.
Flexible work schedules are beneficial to workers of all ages. Providing flexible schedules or part-time work helps employees to spend more time with their families or provides a gradual transition to retirement.
The inclination for virtual employment may have been attributed to a generational aspect, but the COVID-19 pandemic has altered that. The independence of remote work has been appreciated by a wide range of people, and employers welcome this reality. For example, Spotify is now allowing its staff to 'work from anywhere'. Not every industry can handle this situation, but companies that want to attract the best personnel must.
6. Battle prejudice and stereotypes
Generational bias and stereotypes do exist. It is far preferable to redefine them than to deny their existence. Although it is incorrect to presume that people are "entitled," "stubborn," "idealistic," or "workaholics" simply because of their age, the backdrop of various life events does mould people in specific ways.
Recognizing and considering differences allows you to capitalize on the qualities of each generation. It might be necessary, for instance, to question age-based assumptions through role-playing activities. Bringing incorrect impressions to light makes people more conscious of their assumptions, which can lead to more harmonious multi-generational teamwork.
What are the benefits of a multi-generational workforce?
A multi-generational workforce has a variety of advantages. Multiple generations in the workforce is a reality that teams must address. Managers face challenges as multi-generational personnel bring diverse skills, expertise, and perspectives to the workplace.
- Problem-solving capabilities - Problems are solved more creatively when many viewpoints and expertise are combined. Our life experiences shape our responses to and interactions with others amid difficulty and conflict. As a result, age-diverse teams can offer various solutions to challenges.
- Learning/mentoring chances - The more varied a team is, the more opportunity for members to engage and learn from one another's perspectives. This offers opportunities for mutually beneficial mentoring. Individuals with greater experience can counsel younger colleagues on career advancement. Furthermore, the new trend of reverse/cross-generational mentorship allows more junior staff to educate more senior employees on current trends and technologies.
- Good talent pipeline – Having multiple generations in the workforce is a fantastic recruiting tool. Companies can tap into the diverse strengths of employees of various generations to uncover the greatest talent for their company. This helps to guarantee that the team is prepared to face future problems. It also motivates employees to stay with the company for an extended period since they know they can apply their unique abilities and experiences to new initiatives as the team grows.
- Relationships that are one-of-a-kind - Meaningful relationships with co-workers can help people achieve their emotional requirements and increase job happiness. The organization's age groups replicate a family structure, providing the opportunity for intimate contact with others outside of one's generation.
- Greater adaptability - Younger generations are frequently more adaptable than older generations. They have a broader range of experiences and knowledge, which gives them an advantage in swiftly learning new things. This is especially true in today's society when employment roles are continually changing. Multiple generations in the workforce develop various essential talents or abilities to ensure that the team performs correctly.
Managing multiple generations in the workforce can be difficult, but it can also be a great opportunity for teams. You can create a positive environment for everyone engaged if you understand the different generations and the benefits of having a multi-generational staff. But, to make multiple generations in the workforce function, managers must consider a few essential factors, which we have highlighted in this post.
The key is to speak clearly, honestly, and transparently to create an environment where people feel included and appreciated. This creates a great employee experience and allows individuals to meet their professional needs and potential.
Richard Mapfuise is an Organizational Development Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a business management and human resources consulting firm.
Phone: +263 242 481946-9/481950
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