Managing Multiple Generations –  Part I

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One of the most challenging issues facing leadership today is the quandary of how to manage a workforce that could potentially span in age from 18 to 80. With five generations soon to be working side-by-side, the significance of effectively managing a multi-generational workforce takes on new meaning. Grappling with generational differences is quickly rising to the forefront of management’s most pressing concerns. The challenges are complex and many. For starters, according to Seb O’Connell, executive vice president and managing director for Europe at Cielo, “There is potential for negative stereotyping. Older workers may perceive Millennials as entitled, tech-obsessed or too eager to challenge norms while Millennial employees could see previous generations as being ‘stuck in their ways’ and difficult to train.”

Add to the mix differing mindsets, vastly different communication styles, technology preferences that run the gamut, and work patterns that hail from opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s the perfect recipe for escalating friction that will threaten both productivity and morale. According to Jeanne C. Meister, a founding partner of Future Workplace, “It’s your job to help your employees recognize that they each have distinct sets of skills and different things they bring to the table.”

If that sounds like a tall order, well, it is. But it’s certainly doable. The key is to understand the differences which appear to have the most impact in the areas of communication skills, adapting to change, technical or technology skills and aptitude, and the application of teamwork.

Millennials love to take on new challenges and adapt quickly to the latest techie gadgets. Boomers prefer traditional work hours and may struggle with both the latest technology and the need for the latest technology. You get the picture. And that’s good – that you get the picture. It’s crucial that you know how the different generations under your leadership see lots of business-related aspects from differing viewpoints.

Understand where they’re coming from, strategize to make the most of the strengths each brings to the table, but don’t dwell on or make too much of the differences. Whatever you do, don’t encourage “shop talk” and most definitely don’t allow yourself to say things like, ‘People my age do it like this.’ Or ‘All Boomers are bad at _____________.’ In fact, squash labels altogether.

What matters most, regardless of their birth year or any other demographic category such as gender or ethnicity, is understanding your employees as individuals. Spend your time discovering what motivates them, what fears and dreams drive their attitudes and engagement. The better you know them, the more likely you’ll be able to plug their unique skillset into the perfect place within the company.

We hope this gives you a boost in understanding and blending the generations, but don’t stop here – come back next week for the rest of the story in Part II.

At MPS Technical, we understand the importance of filling each position with the right employee. When you connect with us, we’ll connect you with top-quality employees from every generation for all your temporary and permanent staffing needs. Contact us today.

 

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