How to manage different generations of employees… - Emerge UK
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How to manage different generations of employees…

Last week, we spoke about poor management within organisations. Using research as the basis for the post – research that found over 75% of their respondents had left jobs because of their bosses, and not the jobs themselves – we discussed why this would be.

It’s not easy to suddenly find within you the people skills (or soft skills, as they’re sometime called) needed when you’re suddenly put in charge of others for the first time.

Of course, the reason why managing people isn’t simple is mainly to do with the fact that everyone is different. If you’re responsible for a team, within the group you’ll find a range of ages, abilities, values, contractual obligations, as well as the mix of personalities any group has to deal with. When you take all this into account, it’s easy to see that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work with everyone. Which means changing your management approach.

Different generations have enjoyed or endured a range of influences, from their upbringing, societal values, their peers, technology…their expectations, even. In a recent study, CEOs shared the elements they believe stood out as particular challenges across the different generations. The biggest problem, apparently, was ‘communication’; 30% of those interviewed believed this aspect was a definite problem in the workplace, when mixing generations, with ‘adapting to change’ another major issue.

A manager’s role is to encourage cohesiveness, to challenge and motivate each individual, and to enforce a respect for diversity. So, if everyone’s different, how can a manager get across a unified message, common goals and the ability within every individual that they’re one unit?

Firstly, let’s depict the different generations and the terms they’re commonly known by:

  • The baby boomers – born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X – born between 1965 and 1976
  • Millennials (or Generation Y) – born between 1977 and 1995
  • iGen (or Generation Z) – born after 1996

Baby boomers

Born after the war, they were a generation brought up thriftily, into a society that proudly displayed backbone, endurance and a ‘stiff upper lip’. Less likely to get worked up over petty dramas than younger generations, these employees will be highly skilled with oodles of common sense and experience – no calculators or computers, for example, everything will be done in their head or on paper. On the flipside, their digital skills may be lacking. Managing baby boomers involves a lot of respect, as most will be working for someone younger than they are – but whilst they may need support around technology, they’ll likely have useful experience worthy of passing on, and a clear head in scenarios that would see others dissolve. Their life experiences alone mean they shouldn’t be stereotyped or written off. They may be sticklers for the rule book – a generation less likely to take risks, and one resistant to change. Approach: help them share and apply their experience and skills. Find common ground, engage them, and help them integrate with younger generations, particularly around technology. Make them feel their contribution is valued.

Generation X

Born during radical changes, from women’s lib to society’s attitudes, Generation X were shown that the world was theirs for the taking. This ambition to succeed, when harnessed, could prove a great motivation to other generations, but there’s also the risk Generation Xs can struggle to conform to the ideals of others. Keen to learn technology, which started to transform their world when they started work, Generation X has seen huge advances during their careers. Not a generation that enjoys standing still, welcoming development and training, even self-help. Giving a Generation X responsibility is a good move, too, as they grew up with little constraint and much more freedom than their younger counterparts. With self-reliance one of their best traits, they make good managers themselves; however, they’re not as comfortable voicing their opinion or sharing their ideas than such as iGen, whose ‘helicopter parents’ boosted their sense of self. Approach: Assign clear roles to Generation Xs, and afford them responsibility and ownership of their work wherever possible. Give them the room and opportunity to mentor the younger generations and structure regular training/development.

Millennials

Used to diversity and collaborative working, Millennials are perhaps more sensitive to the needs of others than their older peers, and therefore make great brand ambassadors. With no experience of the heavy hands unions held in preceding decades, they have a motivational, ‘can-do’ approach to their work. They’re used to juggling different aspects of their life, having a more structured upbringing and less freedom in their youth, and can become bored when there’s little to do. Receptive to being steered, employing a Millennial’s skills and positivity within the team serves as a good example to everyone else. With an aptitude for technology yet enough life experience to know when and where it’s an advantage, Millennials are savvy, forward-thinkers comfortable with innovation. Approach: It’s important that Millennials have the opportunity to make decisions; they need to be led and inspired, rather than managed. Give them feedback and attention, and praise for a good job. Let them know why things happen a certain way and allow them the freedom to innovate.

iGen

With technology as a third parent in their lives, the iGens are digital whizzes. Having their face glued to a screen can mean a reluctance or fear of joining in with the rest of the team. Relatively new to the workplace, this generation has been brought up with very little freedom; instead, fear of the world is ingrained due to a transparency to life’s risks other generations didn’t need to worry about. The need to fit in and conform, combined with a possible lack of people skills, may make teamwork an area where they need support. Approach: Encourage their entrepreneurial skills, and help them develop their social and collaborative skills in group projects; suggest they educate the older generation with technology. Give them quick responses, and all the information they need to carry out their role. Paint the picture of their dream position, and support their journey to get there.

Summary

We realise that we’ve bunched whole groups of people together, perhaps stereotyping them along the way. However, there’s no disputing the different influences the generations will have experienced, which each individual will have absorbed and reacted to in their own way.

There are challenges, not just when managing generations together in a team scenario, but also managing them as individuals; however, there are many positives. The younger members of the team can enlighten the Boomers and Generation X with their digital prowess, for example, whilst soft skills that come easily to the older generation – used to banding together for common causes – can help tomorrow’s managers and executives understand their peers much better. Isn’t the pooling of talent and collaboration the bedrock of teamwork anyway?

If you’d like more information or help in regard to leadership and management, or implementing organisational change within your organisation, contact Emerge on 01329 820580 or email us via info@emergeuk.com.

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