Effectively Managing Different Generations

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Businesses now face the challenge of managing multiple generations. While Millennials may make up the majority of the workforce these days, Gen X, Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation, and even Post-Millennials all have a presence in the workforce. On the face of it, this can look like an impossible task. With experts often suggesting each generation needs different, sometimes opposed, treatment. The reality of effectively managing different generations is a bit less complicated. 

1. Forget Generational Labels 

You can’t assume that a Gen Xer doesn’t grasp social media any more than you can assume all Millennials hate face-to-face interaction. Working from those kinds of broad assumptions will only encourage problems, not solve them.  

Instead, you’ll need to do what managers have always done. Get to know your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. Then, divvy up work to play to those strengths and minimize those weaknesses.  

2. Foster Cross-Generational Mentoring 

Cross-generational mentoring can prove a little tricky, but it’s usually worth the effort. The idea is that you pair a more senior employee with a younger employee with the goal of each person teaching the other person something.  

For example, you might pair a senior manager with so-so social media skills with a younger employee who needs leadership coaching. You give them a task that integrates a social media campaign with a team project. The pair get to share knowledge more organically. 

3. Provide Flexibility 

While broad generational stereotypes don’t hold a lot of water, people at different personal and professional stages have different needs. For example, an employee with young kids might prize remote working opportunities. An employee who is closer to retirement might want options to ramp up their medical coverage or retirement savings.  

Similarly, don’t assume everyone responds well to the same learning approach. Provide both traditional and more interactive learning options. People who thrive in classrooms will gravitate toward traditional learning options, while people who like gamification will opt for interactive options. 

The broad generalizations about generations that get bandied about in the media are not your friend. Not every member of Gen X is cynical, and not every Millennial is rendered catatonic by separation from their smartphone. Managing multiple generations is about learning what each employee excels at and, where practical, helping them bolster their weaknesses. You can do this through training and cross-generational mentoring. Offering flexibility in the workplace, however, can help you accommodate people from every generation. 

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