Managing millennials remains a top priority for industries of all stripes, especially since only 28 percent of workers are managers themselves. That leaves 72 percent of managers struggling to relate to what, by all accounts, are the majority of the workforce.
It’s a complex issue, especially when you consider they rule the workforce in spite of comprising just 35 percent of it. Close behind are Generation Xers (or GenXers) and Baby Boomers.
That means managers must be able to adapt their styles across a diverse spectrum of personality types. In the following article, we’ll discuss some crafty tips for how managers can excel in such a multiple generation workforce. Let’s begin!
The term “Baby Boomer” describes a generation of children born from 1946 to 1964. Millennials cover 1981-1996. Generation X falls in between in what is commonly accepted as the 1965-1980 gap.
While there are many differences separating each, the biggest is probably acceptance and use of technology in their daily lives. Boomers still benefitted from the economic prosperity of the World War II generation.
Economic prosperity drove technological gains. But it often was their children who showed the most interest in emerging technologies. As a result, GenXers and Millennials ended up seeing the most advancement relevant to their working careers.
GenXers might still remember a world without the Internet, for instance, but many of them were coming into their own when it revolutionized the way we communicate. Their efforts drove much of the connectivity and advancement that has only sped up in the last 10 years.
The background here is important. That’s because it gives today’s manager some insight into just how stark the differences can be.
But there are ways to manage all three while bringing everyone together. If you’re facing that challenge, here are 13 tips to help.
1. Emphasize Teamwork from the Outset
Today’s generations value teamwork over crass individualism. That’s not to say Baby Boomers were selfish. It’s more a snapshot of the world where they grew up.
Working with Millennials, you’ll find they usually have part of themselves in the digital world. This most commonly occurs through social media. Technology brought their generation together into what’s essentially a global community.
GenXers helped to build and develop this concept as well. And while Boomers may not have had that level of connectivity in their worlds growing up, they are discovering it now through the changing workforce and the empty nest.
Situationally, this presents a superb opportunity to build and foster a team mindset in the workplace. Emphasize a culture of shared goals, give them the tools and resources to make it happen, and you’ll be surprised at how well they work together.
2. Be Flexible on Work Scheduling
The different generations have their own preferred way of working. Older generations are less comfortable with technology. The prospects of working remotely for them aren’t quite as accessible.
The gap between Millennials and GenXers, however, is less broad. Many from these two groups actually prefer to work outside the office because they understand things like remote software and how to send and receive messages and documents across multiple devices.
Technology really has reshaped what we’re capable of doing from outside the office. So why not take advantage of it?
3. Make Diversity Priority
The virtual borders separating cultures are much less than what they used to be. It’s easy to use tools like Skype, for instance, to connect with someone 13 time zones away. Your co-workers may not even speak English as a first language!
These were not common concepts as Baby Boomers worked through most of their careers. As a result, their generation is less diverse than the Millennial generation.
Today, diversity is inescapable. So strive to make it accessible. Study after study has proven the benefit of diversity in the workplace, and it won’t take older generations long to latch onto it.
4. Be More Results Driven
At one time, the workforce depended more on the letters after someone’s name than the results their work produced. Or, maybe it’s not that it cared less. It just assumed those letters (e.g. degrees and educational certifications) would be an automatic indicator of success.
However, the coding revolution has taught us much about this assumption. When the Internet first took off, traditional education was unable to keep pace with the rate at which experimenters were learning.
That led to many people without degrees — only a robust interest in coding — getting six-figure jobs or starting million-dollar businesses on skills they picked up themselves. Impressive and unprecedented!
One effective tool for how to manage this concept into people of any generational background is self-evaluation. This emphasizes a results-driven culture and forces the employee to take charge of their own professional development.
They’ll stop worrying so much about their degree. And they’ll start focusing more on the outcome, which is really what will drive your business forward.
5. Encourage Work-Life Balance
Another important part of managing multiple generations in the workplace is making your team slow down and take time for themselves. We’re all working more hours today than in years past. Smartphones aren’t making that reality any easier.
If you’re unaware of their effect on you, it’s possible to spend every waking hour of your day on some form of work task. This hinders productivity and leads to burnout.
Paid time off is a must no matter how old you are. So as a business owner, make sure your employees stop and enjoy their lives.
6. Pay Attention to Communication Styles
Boomers, GenXers, and Millennials communicate differently. Older generations value phone calls and face-to-face. GenXers and Millennials appreciate the comparative lack of intrusion that texting and email provides.
This may be one of the more challenging bridges to cross. Still, it’s something you’ll need to do for the good of your business.
Of course, written communications make it easier to track work and efficiency. That said, more meaning often can be derived from hearing a voice or seeing the way someone delivers a response. Try to mix it up and force each group out of their collective bubbles.
7. Be Strategic with Experience
Slamming all GenXers or Millennials or Boomers into groups that only reflect their experiences won’t do much to bridge any gaps along the way. They all have their strengths.
But how will you know without mixing it up whether one group will have the skills and knowledge needed to tackle whatever unique challenges they may face? You won’t unless you use a more careful strategy in how you align them together.
8. Do Not Micromanage
There once was a manager we’ll not name here who thought it would be a good idea to have her staff write down what they were doing every 15 minutes. She provided time cards with one box for each 15-minute unit and had her staff turn them into her at the end of each day.
This is the very definition of micromanagement, and all three groups hate it. Boomers feel as though it belittles their work experience and knowledge. GenXers and Millennials look at it more as an insult to their intelligence.
Pro tip: don’t hire anyone you feel will need constant monitoring. Be slower to fill the position with the right person, regardless of age.
9. Manage Internal Competition
Competition is good as long as you’re not pitting one group against another or allowing that type of thought to rule your workplace. Making individuals or groups of individuals too competitive encourages a dangerous mindset.
See, you want people to succeed because they value accomplishment. Not because they just want to beat the other guy, girl, or group. Inevitably, too much of the latter will lead to “the easy way out” of “winning” simply by making the other person look bad.
Instead, encourage each employee to compete against two things. The objective and themselves.
10. Integrate Them
In No. 7, we talked about integrating their experience as a strategy. Here, we mean physical integration.
Force them to sit with and be near one another. This will force each to set aside existing prejudices and get to know one another as people.
11. Create a Tolerant Culture for Everyone
Creating a tolerant culture is easier said than done when you’re dealing with a multiple generation workforce. It can be a little like trying your odds at W88 if you’ve never heard of it.
But Millennials value tolerance. And they’re a lot more vocal about the lack of it as evidenced through movements like #MeToo and their embrace of same-sex marriage over past generations.
12. Know Their Values
Previous generations are more religious than today’s generations. Many of those beliefs are sincerely held and widely-practiced.
At the same time, non-religious people don’t appreciate being made to feel they have to honor something they don’t believe. How much personal belief you allow into the workplace is up to you. But at the very least, know what you’re up against regarding the dynamic of your team.
13. Harness Their Technology Skills
Millennials and GenXers have widely embraced modern technology. Boomers are coming along in this regard.
But they also can be useful in their knowledge of the way things were before there was a Google to search. Use it to your advantage when you can. It can lead to more creative solutions.
Managing Millennials and Baby Boomers Is Not As Hard As You Think
It’s always going to be a challenge uniting a multiple generation workforce. But as technology begins to close the gap between our differences, managing millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers will become easier to navigate.
Start by focusing on the common ground they share and the mission of your company. From there, incorporate the tips we’ve shared above. And if that’s not enough, check out our tools for how to get more out of your employees’ performance.