Understanding and Leveraging Multigenerational Employees

multigenerational workforce

When your youngest employee is 19 years of age and your oldest employee is 69, that is an organizational strength, but this significant and meaningful gap in life experience requires you to recognize the inevitable differences in mindset and perspective to make things work and get the best out of everyone.

You most likely have heard the saying that age is just a number, and that more important is how you feel inside. That may be true, but our age and experience, both in life and professionally classifies us into a specific generation. Many of our older generation past the age of 60 continue to work sometimes by choice, but often by necessity. With the rising cost of living and insufficient retirement savings, older employees are holding on to their jobs as they are unsure or unable to feel secure enough to hand in their retirement notice and “ride off into the sunset.”

Back in the day employees were typically forced by their employer or society to retire at the age of 65 when they had reached the specific milestone age. This is no longer the case and with increasing frequency older employees are continuing to work into their late 60’s and beyond. It’s now possible that a grandparent can have their grandchild working in the same workspace. It’s vital that employers recognize how valuable it can be to have an older employee working alongside a recent graduate. When in the right working environment, they can each learn from the other and build on their skills and knowledge.

Generations may be classified with a unique title and specific birth years and may have similarities in terms of characteristics and preferences but it’s important to note that there could be different expectations and behaviors depending on geographic location and prevalent cultural norms.  For example, a Millennial in an overpopulated or developing country may have different expectations than those in Canada where the job market is strong and active.  Given that demographics may have different experiences based on market and skill set, it’s also important to understand the specific patterns for your work environment and factor these in accordingly.

Understanding the Upbringing of Generation Groups:

Traditionalists or The Silence Generation, born 1945 and before:

An interesting fact about this generation is their silence. They lived during the war and other hardships, and this has likely formed their characteristics and strong work ethics.

Baby Boomers, born 1946 to 1964:

This generation would be between 59 and 77 years of age and the name is derived from the extraordinary amount of birth rates during this post-war period. They were certainly quite opposite to their parents and were known for their activism and willingness to speak out.

Generation X, born 1965 to 1979:

Gen X grew up in a period of shifting cultural and societal changes. Because they grew up with minimal adult supervision, they are typically known for being self-reliant, independent, flexible and value work-life balance.

Millennials (Gen Y), born 1980 to 1994:

The reason this generation is called Millennials is because they became adults around the time of the millennium. Even though they are comparatively tech savvy and spend a vast amount of time using technology, they are also very much community oriented and typically environmentally aware.

Generation Z, born 1995 to 2012:

This generation has had plenty of exposure to technology such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops and are often avid gamers. They are considered the most digitally connected generation with many social relationships driven and dependent on technology.

Gen Alpha, born 2013 – 2025:

This generation has lived their entire life constantly surrounded by technology. They are also growing up in a world of information (and opinion) interconnected by social media. As they emerge as adults and enter the workforce, they will likely be known for valuing and expecting diversity as well as being innovative and adaptable.

So, How Exactly Should I Lead a Multigenerational Workforce?

Generational awareness is key to improving your business success. A 69-year-old doesn’t communicate the same way a 29-year-old does, and you may find your seasoned workers wanting to talk to you face-to-face. Gen Z on the other hand will prefer to email or text. Depending on the generation of the manager or supervisor and their impacted managerial style, it can be challenging to effectively lead a team without an understanding and flexibility related to multi-generational differences. 

Bridging the multi-generational gap in the organization doesn’t have to be hard. 

Key Tips to Leverage Your Multigenerational Workforce:

  • As a manager who falls into one of the 5 generation groups, it’s vital that you have a thorough understanding of each generation’s typical wants, needs, and values. What exactly are the differences, preferences, communication style and behaviour patterns? Take the time to get to know each of your employees and ask them about their needs. Respect preferences and consider the expectations and motivational needs of each generation and how they like to be rewarded.
  • Encourage knowledge sharing by pairing your more seasoned employee with the younger generation. The older employee will have considerable knowledge and skill while the younger employee will know more about current technology being used. Older employees have built up years of knowledge that may be difficult to teach in some industries like engineering or manufacturing and will also have much needed critical thinking skills. These employees play a crucial role in teaching younger employees.
  • Allow brainstorming opportunities that include all generations so that younger employees can contribute with their ideas and opinions which also opens the door for learning opportunities. Try to ensure that everyone has a chance to contribute and be heard, regardless of age or experience.
  • Provide training on diversity and inclusion and specifically highlight the differences between multi generations so that employees have a better understanding of values, beliefs, and upbringing. It’s important not to jump to conclusions about people based on their age, and rather educate oneself and create a climate for all your employees to learn from each other.
  • Promote team building exercises which help develop relationships and build collaboration, communication, and trust amongst age groups. These can include games, team sharing and discussions.
  • Organize activities outside of work that employees of all ages can attend such as volunteering, lunches, rock-climbing, bowling, and any other fun activity so employees can be brought together in an informal setting.
  • Offer flexible solutions to accommodate multi-generational working styles and individual needs. For example, this can be the flexibility of allowing preferred communication methods such as face-to-face meetings with your older employees and instant messaging with the younger generation. Consider allowing flexible working arrangements which might be different for each employee. Different generations are often dealing with a wide range of life situations and circumstances, being as flexible as possible will help your organization get the most from everyone.

 

Creating an environment that values the unique differences of each generation is key for employee retention and organizational success. Every generation has something unique to offer and by understanding these differences you can build a collaborative and respectful workplace. Contact Bridge Legal and HR Solutions for practical guidance and support – (647) 794-5442 or at admin@bridgelegalhr.ca 

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