- The generational differences of today’s labor force are far greater than they used to be.
- It has a tendency to pose problems in the workplace as various generations all need to work together on several work-related choices and ethical decisions.
- Organizations that can understand and bridge generational gaps will have a better competitive edge in retaining its employees.
Today’s labor force and the resulting workplace dynamics are so unlike anything our society has seen before. The diverse business environment offers new challenges and issues surrounding race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and most recently the emergence of generational diversity.
Older employees are staying on the job longer while younger ones are getting promoted faster to higher positions that were previously reserved for seasoned employees. In some cases, young managers are directly supervising the activities of people who are older and occasionally, more experienced than them.
These kinds of scenario can create tension in the workplace for both parties. Even if the younger manager has a more senior position than their subordinates, their employees don’t necessarily have the respect and deference for their authority.
The Modern Workplace amidst Generational Diversity
The generational differences are far more significant than they used to be. The generations on each side of the divide are finding it hard to relate with each other. These differences have the potential to pose problems in the workplace as various generations all need to work together on several work-related choices and ethical decisions.
Generational experiences have a direct impact on the social views and opinions of employees. It influences an employee’s work ethic, adaptability to technology, and expectations with their career and managers.
This is why a good manager with progressive views will pay attention to generational diversity. It will help them retain seasoned employees that the company has nurtured, attract talented young people, and increase productivity amidst a very generationally diverse workforce.
Workplace tension tends to arise whenever people from different generations are working side by side and don’t understand each other. To manage generational diversity in the workplace, managers need to have an understanding of the different values, motivators, and preferences of each generation in the labor force.
Managers can turn generational diversity into strengths for their employees and their company. They can help diffuse the tension among their employees by learning about their differences and appreciating the differences brought by a multigenerational workforce.
By understanding generational differences, managers will be more equipped in assigning specific tasks to their employees, driving performance, and avoiding unnecessary tension. Managers should make an effort to interact with members of each generation in a way that suits their work ethic and communication style.
Thus, transparency in a company’s acceptance of generational diversity must be led by leaders and cascaded down to their teams to nurture this type of multigenerational working environment.
Bridging the gap in generational diversity
The employees in today’s workplace have characteristics that were shaped by the political, social, and economic climate of their youth. Each generation in the workforce today are trying to succeed in today’s competitive labor market. Managers need to understand the generational diversity phenomenon first before they come up with strategies to foster a better working environment.
Let’s get to know these generations to determine how this multigenerational workforce can work effectively together.
Baby Boomers: Born from 1946 to 1964
This generation has been said to be driven by the mentality that possibilities are endless. By the time they are old enough to enter the workforce, they are eager to succeed and are equipped by their strong work ethic and great determination. Their sense of identity is often deeply connected to their career achievements.
Baby Boomers today often occupy many of the middle and upper management positions in companies. As managers, this generation tends to exhibit their determined and robust work ethic in the workplace, and they also expect their younger employees to do the same. As a whole, they tend to be experienced in navigating office politics in their companies.
- Strong work ethic
Generation X: Born from 1965 to 1980
This generation is known to be technologically savvy as they have ushered the era of video games and personal computers during their childhood years. With the uncertain economy during the latter part of the 20th century, Gen Xers were raised under the certainty that they cannot trust workplace permanence.
Since they don’t expect employer loyalty, they have no qualms of changing jobs for career advancements. Unlike Baby Boomers, Gen Xers believe that their job is not the most important part of their life. While they are resourceful and hardworking, they would rather pursue other interests once they clock out of their jobs.
Millennials: Born from 1981 to 1999
This generation is the newest one to enter the workforce recently. While many of this generation are still in school, most of them are recent college graduates who have recently joined the workforce. Millennials are the generation who had unfettered access to technology their whole lives.
Their generation is highly confident and has high self-esteem. They are eager to learn but also loves questioning things in the workplace. They favor teamwork and reject the notion that they have to stay confined within their job description. Unlike Gen Xers who change jobs, Millennials are more likely to make career changes or build parallel careers.
- Street smart
A Forbes article also mentioned the notable differences among these generations in the workplace:
Baby Boomers are often perceived as more reserved compared to the younger Gen Xers and Millennials. Millennials also favor collaborations and face-to-face interactions more. Overall, Millennials are said to relate better with the coaching style of management than the traditional top-down authoritative style.
Adapting to change
Gen Xers and Millennials often view change in a positive light and see it as a “vehicle for new opportunities.” Baby Boomers, on the other hand, tend to be more jaded and cynical about change since their experience has taught them that transitioning from a stable work environment to frequent reorganizations were the norm rather than the exception.
Baby Boomers and Gen Xers like to learn using traditional instructor-led courses or self-learning tools. Millennials are the opposite. Due to their familiarity with technology, they prefer collaborative and technology-centric tools.
Bridging the gap in generational diversity
Organizations that can understand and bridge generational gaps will have a better competitive edge in retaining employees. Managers can take steps in addressing the generational diversity issue in the workplace once they finally understood the unique characteristics of each generation and their corresponding differences. The Wall Street Journal noted several strategies on how to manage generational diversity in the workplace:
- Educate managers on how they can adapt from the dynamics brought about by generational diversity. – For any strategy to work, it’s essential that managers are equipped with the right tools to be able to execute it properly. Rather than trying to change the staff, organizations should first make the necessary changes to adapt to their multigenerational workforce.
- Facilitate mentoring to encourage cross-generational interaction. – Mentoring puts value in the experience and wisdom that can be gained from seasoned employees. While older employees, on the other hand, can also learn new perspectives and ideas offered by the younger generation.
- Provide different working options like telecommuting and working offsite. – Organizations need to focus more on the results than the procedures. It will give employees more flexibility if telecommuting and work from home options are encouraged. Telecommuting will also give Baby Boomers who are nearing their retirement the incentive to stay in the company longer since it allows them to be more in control of their time.
- Accommodate different learning styles. – Baby Boomers may favor more traditional training methods like manuals and handbooks. However, the younger generation will most likely prefer a more interactive and technology-based form of learning.
- Keep employees engaged. – Organizations need to provide regular educational and training opportunities that will keep employees interested to work for you. You can also come up with specialized training that will peak the interests of each generation.
- Encourage collaboration in the workplace. – Millennials generally don’t work well under strict management. They prefer to collaborate and share information so that everybody can be part of the decision-making. Try assigning work to teams of employees and let them present their work to the department. This will encourage the Millennials’ preference for teamwork and build more solidarity within the workplace.
- Toss the routines. – Both Gen Xers and Millennials are averse to the formality of regular weekly meetings, especially when there are no pressing matters to talk about. Limit meetings to when there is really a need to have one.
- Create recognition programs. – Encouraging employees through positive reinforcement will help boost productivity in the organization. Give them the recognition they deserve for their stellar work performance. Millennials even prefer regular employee reviews to help them gauge their performance in the company.
- Give employees a voice. – Regardless of their age or tenure in the company, managers need to allow all their employees to present new ideas and voice our their concerns. Facilitating open communication in the workplace will significantly help the company get honest feedback from employees.
- Don’t apply a blanket communication-method policy. – Each generation often has different communication preferences. Baby Boomers like to communicate through phone or in person. While Millennials who grew up constantly connected are used to emailing, texting, or sending instant messages.
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Bartley, S. J., Ladd, P. G., & Morris, M. L. (2007). Managing the Multigenerational Workplace: Answers for Managers and Trainers. CUPA-HR Journal, 58(1), 28–34. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.upd.edu.ph/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ798665&site=ehost-live
How to Manage Different Generations – Management – WSJ.com. (2019). Guides.wsj.com. Retrieved 7 May 2019, from http://guides.wsj.com/management/managing-your-people/how-to-manage-different-generations/
How To Manage Generational Differences In The Workplace. (2019). Forbes.com. Retrieved 7 May 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2017/01/25/how-to-manage-generational-differences-in-the-workplace/#251a3a034cc4
Reddick, E. (2006). What you don’t know about generational differences in the workplace could cost you plenty. Enterprise/Salt Lake City, 36(24), 10. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.upd.edu.ph/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bwh&AN=24700914&site=ehost-live