Managing a Multigenerational Workforce
The dynamics and needs of the workforce are constantly shifting. This is due to many factors, including the diversity of generations available to work. A multigenerational workforce requires shifts in communication styles, work habits, company culture, and resources to meet the needs of all your employees.
These generations coming together provide many opportunities and benefits for your company, but also come with distinct challenges. Knowing how to adapt to these changes will determine whether your company thrives. While there is much discussion around the differences between generations, HR must find common ground to develop effective processes and policies.
Generational Workforce Differences
Gen X and Millennials make up 68% of the workforce, with Millennials being the largest represented group at 35%. While many Baby Boomers are entering retirement age, some are not ready to leave the workforce, and Gen Z is beginning to make an appearance as well.
Each generation has differences in what they are looking for in the workforce. To find the right talent for your organization, you need to understand these differences. Phyllis Haserot discusses the differences between generations in You Can’t Google It!: The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversation at Work.
The biggest concern for Baby Boomers is being replaced and/or losing relevancy at work. They look for opportunities in continued learning to help them maintain their relevancy. They are also the group least likely to lean towards online communication methods, preferring in-person meetings.
While this group shies away from new methods and procedures, Millennials and Gen Z are perfectly comfortable introducing new techniques in the workplace. The three younger generations also prefer more work-life integration than the older generations.
Gen X and Millennials put a lot of emphasis on available resources. Gen X is focused more on tools to prepare for leadership, while Millennials look for resources that provide transparency, improved communication, and guidance in their tasks.
While the other generations look to more tangible benefits in their workplace, Gen Z employees are more focused on social issues and privacy.
While it is important to understand the differences in a multigenerational workforce, it is just as important to remember each employee is an individual. No one person is going to neatly fit into an assigned category.
Finding the right talent and providing the right resources for a multigenerational workforce also requires you to understand the common ground between these groups. Your employees are, after all, people with basic needs and wants.
Feedback is one of these common ground areas. While the method of feedback may differ between generations, everyone wants to understand where they stand with your organization.
Along the same line, everyone likes recognition for work done well. They want to feel respected and want to know they have opportunities for growth.
Each group also wants their work to have purpose. They want to know why they are performing tasks and what it has to do with the overall company goals.
Developing HR Infrastructure to Meet Generational Needs
Understanding your company’s HR needs starts with understanding your current workforce. Take time to listen to your employees to see where you may have gaps in your efforts to meet multigenerational workforce needs.
- What do your employees have to say about your company?
- What do they see as the biggest problem areas?
- Where are your processes most likely to break down?
Understanding these points will help you understand the gaps in your resources and procedures to thrive with a diverse workforce.
A strong HR infrastructure requires having the right resources to help employees thrive. When conducting meetings with employees, note any recurring issues and concerns.
Implement exit and stay interviews to better understand what makes employees leave and what makes them stick around. Pay attention to common issues across generations. Also, pay attention to issues that affect specific generational groups so you can make necessary adjustments.
Tips to Meet Generational Gaps
A multigenerational workforce provides diverse skills and experiences in the workplace. This can lead to improved and creative solutions if employees feel valued and comfortable sharing ideas. For these ideas to lead to real solutions, it’s important to develop strategies that encourage collaboration across generations.
Communication can prove tricky in multigenerational workforce settings. While Baby Boomers prefer in-person interactions, Millennials and Gen Z prefer online methods such as texts and messenger tools. Provide multiple communication options to make sure all generations represented in your workforce feel comfortable interacting.
It is also a good idea to encourage employees from different generations to get to know each other better. Provide opportunities for them to build relationships that allow them to better understand each other so they can work together more effectively.
A good way to encourage this interaction is cross-generational learning opportunities. Encourage veteran employees to mentor new employees.
Reverse mentorship is also a way to encourage older generations to embrace new technologies and relationship-building. These mentorship programs provide a great way for employees to share ideas and collaborate on new strategies.
You also want to make sure your policies address issues regarding generational bias. Provide clear guidelines in your employee handbook on appropriate work behavior that highlights the need for mutual respect. Be careful with these policies as you don’t want to appear to target specific generations.
It’s also important to remove these generational biases from your recruiting and hiring practices. Think about what benefits are likely to attract talent from different generational groups and determine options that can meet needs across the spectrum.
Personalizing feedback is also essential. Provide positive, specific feedback that addresses the concerns of your individual employees. Consider personalizing work recognition based on the needs of each generation as well.
Managing Benefits for Multiple Generations
Different generations will have different concerns based on their experiences, and this will affect the types of benefits they are attracted to.
Help with college debt, or help paying for college are good options for younger generations. Providing mental health benefits also attracts younger generations. Flexible work options are useful benefits for most of the generations represented.
Health and wellness programs are another great option for all generations in the workforce. You can provide different incentives to meet the needs of different groups with options such as gym memberships, wellness classes, or other incentive programs.
Consider also personalizing development programs, providing more PTO options, and community outreach programs to meet the needs of a multigenerational workforce.
Making the Most of Your Workforce
While a multigenerational workforce can present unique challenges, it can also lead to improved productivity and revenues if the unique needs are handled well. This starts with putting the right HR policies and practices in place.
Do you know how your workplace stands up to the changing needs of the workforce? Download our free HR Assessment to make sure you get the most out of your workforce and other resources.
Written by: Penny Clark, Content Specialist