Managing Multiple Generations: Expectations and Best Practices
July 18, 2022
Do you know anyone who started their career in the same company as their parents? Now, your grandma or grandpa can give you a little boost in your career! We are entering a new era where this could be a reality since the older generation remain in their jobs for life while younger people change jobs often.
Thanks to a higher lifespan and a greater diversity of generations in the workplace, this demographic scheme can be found in an increasing number of businesses and is called a multigenerational workforce. So what does it mean? Think about those family gatherings when you explain how TikTok works to your grandpa. Now imagine how this situation can impact an office environment, where you are explaining a new technology to a colleague who is the same age as your grandpa.
This is a big question for many organizations now facing this new employee structure. What are the challenges of having Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z on the same team? Why should you consider a cross-generation workplace as an asset for your business? Why should you consider a cross-generation workplace as an asset for your business? HR departments and leaders need to understand the expectations of this unique demographic scheme and learn the best practices for managing multiple generations. Are you interested in learning one of the keys to building a successful multigenerational workplace? It may have something to do with flexibility.
The meaning of a multigenerational workforce
According to Our World in Data, life expectancy has increased from less than 30 years old to over 72 years old. For this reason, multiple generations work jointly for the first time in modern history. Businesses now have a team composed of at least four generations (multigenerational workforce). Here are the five major groups that can work simultaneously:
In most countries, the Silent Generation is now retired. However, businesses will still need to manage employees from four different age groups. Each generation might have different working habits, career goals, and expectations that might not align smoothly. As a final piece of the puzzle, the generation Alpha (born after 2011) will enter the job market very soon.
Challenges related to a post-generational workforce
Different expectations: security and stability vs. purpose and work-life balance
When working with a team composed of only one generation, people already have different expectations about work. But when managing a multigenerational team, this is amplified. Baby Boomers, for example, tend to look for security and stability, while Gen X and Millennials are eager to experience different job positions and companies in their careers. Education, culture, and history play a huge role in drawing these working patterns. Keeping them in mind is crucial when working with multigenerational groups.
Communication issues: calls, emails, chats, or videoconferences?
Do you get annoyed when you receive a call from your parents that could have been a simple text message? This communication issue is more common in a cross-generational workplace. How do you share information with your team when some prefer phone calls while others would rather receive emails? Not only the means of communication matter, but also the tone of voice and the content. Zoomers may indeed be more receptive to a podcast about how to embrace hybrid work instead of sitting in a room for one hour listening to a lecture. Finding a common way to communicate can be complex. Yet, it is crucial to the employee experience for all.
Distinct ways of working: traditionalist vs. New Workers
Working with employees from different generations can lead to intergenerational tension. 60% of workers say they have experienced generational conflict, according to the study ‘Harnessing the power of a multigenerational workforce’ from SHRM and AARP Data. Even though stereotypes and misconceptions can sometimes cause this issue, different ways of working can also lead to generational gaps. On the one hand, Millennials and Zoomers are often looking for remote work opportunities and variable working hours. On the other hand, Baby Boomers are used to working five days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That has always been the way they have worked and they don’t require more flexibility. It’s clear that getting everybody to work together may seem tricky. However, hiring multigenerational talent also has many advantages, and there are numerous solutions to overcome these challenges!
Benefits of having generational diversity in the workplace
A wide and balanced set of soft and hard skills
Generational diversity in the workplace creates a group of people that grew up at different times with varied work expectations. Millennials can be more career-oriented than the older generations, and Baby Boomers may possess much stronger interpersonal capabilities. A successful team is composed of individuals that have both hard and soft skills. For this reason, hiring multigenerational talents is a great way to ensure a workforce with a diverse skill set.
A cross-generational workplace led by experience and expertise
In the US, Millennials define 50% of the total workforce. In 2025, this statistic is expected to reach 75%. Gen Y also represents the biggest part of the workforce for most countries. Because fewer people spend 40 years in the same organization or position, they try different jobs, diversifying their experience and therefore increasing their level of the knowledge. Not only does this knowledge enable people to learn different ways of working but it also allows them to develop new skills! Baby Boomers and early Gen Xers are specialists in their domain as they have been performing the same job for years or even decades. Accordingly, they can bring their expertise to the table to create a super team!
A problem-solving and innovative workforce
HR departments have a much broader range of talents, with different perceptions and ways of working. Thanks to the combination of different skills, expertise, and background experience, teams with age diversity tend to solve problems quicker than other teams. By learning from each other and observing various points of view, they have a higher ability to brainstorm ideas and be innovative. While the older generations share their knowledge and experience, the younger ones bring original proposals and a new angle.
Higher employee retention and productivity
This constant transfer of knowledge and upskilling mindset enhances motivation and productivity. It also helps to create better relationships among your team increasing the overall employee experience. Multigenerational workforces are coming to the office feeling that they not only can bring value to their team but also learn something new and level up their knowledge. Workers stay longer in a company where they feel appreciated, have a purpose, and where they can experience a positive corporate culture.
Because each age group may have their own way of working and communicating, it is crucial to understand how your team members are succeeding and how to accompany them in the best possible way. Older generations should not be left behind because of the rapid development of new technology in the workplace. At the same time, Gen Z should not suffer from the frustration of having to come to the office everyday either. During meetings, it is also important to give everyone the chance to express their ideas and opinions. Feedback is relevant in trying to meet expectations as well. Ask your team: ‘What can I do to help you?’, and then listen. In this way, you will avoid exclusion and will also be able to uncover any issues your team might have.
Develop the right communication strategy
Try to determine a communication strategy that includes and suits everyone. Older generations tend to prefer face-to-face conversations, while younger ones are more comfortable with virtuality. You could even set up multigenerational communication guidelines dedicated to your team and based on their needs. Since communicating is a core pillar of a successful working model, it is paramount to use the correct channels. And remember: it is all about balance! Going all-in with Zoom meetings will not work as well as only interacting over emails.
Learn from each other to widen your skillset
The goal for multigenerational team leaders is to minimize the challenges and accentuate the benefits of having generational diversity in the workplace. Valuing the differences and sharing knowledge among professionals is the best thing you can do. You can mentor your employees so they can learn from each other while combining their top skills. For example, give a chance to Zoomers to explain to Baby Boomers how automation is a great asset to reduce job redundancy, have more time to focus on more meaningful tasks, and be more efficient.
Rely on work flexibility to answer to your team needs
With people seeking a better work-life balance and businesses focusing more on employee experience, it is clear that flexibility is becoming the future of work. This makes even more sense for cross-generational workers. Let’s be clear: there is no one-size-fits-all solution! You would need to adapt to the different generations on your team and provide them with the ideal working conditions. Hybrid models and flexi time are the perfect answer for a multigenerational workforce. The older generation of workers can go to the office the entire week and others can operate from home!
Avoid stereotyping your multigenerational workforce
Stereotyping is a no-go when leading teams with different age groups. You might meet Baby Boomers who love technology and embrace any new digital tool your company implements. Or you might find that some Zoomers hate working from home because they need social interactions and are more productive when around their colleagues. The best way to handle a multigenerational workforce? Focus on the human approach!
Implement the right technology
Workplace technology is quickly changing how we (all) work, and it can be fundamental in connecting the needs of your multigenerational workforce. MS Teams or Slack, for example, can be a solution to enhance a better communication strategy. Video calls via Zoom or Google Meet are the perfect combo between a call, a face-to-face conversation, DMs or emails (chat window), and digital remote communication. Besides, a desk booking app integrated into your communication tool allows your employees to enjoy more flexibility!
The new way of working does not only result from the rise of hybrid work and modern technology, it also comes from a need to adapt to an unfamiliar office demographic structure. So yes, when managing multiple generations you might encounter some challenges. However, the number of benefits raised by having a multigenerational workforce largely counterbalances them. The best method to create a positive atmosphere and gain from generational diversity is to:
set up a good communication strategy;
embrace each other knowledge;
empower your multigenerational team with the right technology.
Do you want to discover how the deskbird app can help you manage your hybrid workplace and increase your employee experience? Start a free trial and explore all the features your workers could enjoy!