Managing Across Multiple Generations

Today’s companies face more complexity, a faster pace of change, and greater competition for employees than ever before. Company managers and team leaders must learn to manage across three generations of workers, each having different goals, motivations, life cycle aspirations and expectations of managers, executives, and the company in general.

Today’s work force is made up of Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964; Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1977; and Gen Ys (aka Millennials), born since 1978. Millennials are less apt to be loyal to a company, if a better offer or a better managed company makes a legitimate offer, are more team oriented, need a lot of positive feedback, and love technology. Gen Xers or more independent, would rather have time off, are skeptical of management, and less likely to respond to traditional methods of motivation. Boomers are far more competitive than either Gen Xers or Millennials. Boomers are more apt to believe in seniority and that promotions go to those who have paid their dues.

In the 2020 Workplace authors Meister and Willerd, provide substantive recommendations for managing across generations. As people live longer and work longer, the modern manager must relearn and re-think traditional ways of managing starting with getting rid of generational stereotypes. Research suggests that there are not significant differences in the way people like to be managed. All groups like to feel included and so adopting a collaborative method of working with people and teams is an essential new managerial trait. Being open to ideas and suggestions and finding ways to engage workers so that their work is meaningful is another key aspect of managing today.

Working in teams may include cross-generational work groups and mentoring. The benefits of experience coupled with the use of new ideas and technology could be the right blend for many situations. Keep in mind that because each group has different desires, goals, and motivations, today’s managers need to know what incentives work and which ones do not work for each of their employees. Just like people, your company is also subject to life-cycles. Knowing the best incentives for you and your company is key to long-term success.

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