In this day and age, the work place is no longer dominated by one generation with a single set of shared values and professional standards; the business world is now filled with a variety of generations that come from different backgrounds and hold different priorities.
It is essential to the success of a business for executives to recognize that not all individuals in the workplace will work, learn, and act in the same manner. Each individual brings his or her own enthusiasm and work habits to an organization, and understanding the types of generations represented in the workforce today will help HR manage employees productively. To gain a competitive advantage, organizations must address intergenerational challenges and focus on generation-specific needs.
There are many benefits that stem from having a multigenerational team, and to take advantage of these benefits, one must keep these generational differences in mind. Multigenerational teams are known to be more flexible, gain and maintain more market share because they reflect the multigenerational market, make better decisions because of a broader base of knowledge from multiple perspectives, and demonstrate increased creativity and innovation.
The first step in realizing the benefits of a multigenerational workforce is to educate employees on the attitudes and perspectives of fellow generations. Educating employees on the values of the various generations in the workplace will improve corporate culture, attract talent across generations, improve employee morale and engagement, reduce age discrimination, and result in better employee retention. There is a certain level of respect that needs to be had for the differing opinions of multiple generations. Each generation brings a different skill set to the workplace, and none should be discounted as less important than the next.
To create an effective strategy for educating employees and developing respect between generations, every organization should create a roadmap for managing multiple generations. The roadmap should include the following steps:
- Tailor messages for generational preferences. Feedback, instruction, and information should be tailored to the generation to which they are targeted in order to optimize effectiveness.
- Create programs that encourage generations to work together and share knowledge. Older generations are used to more independent work environments while new generations thrive off of teamwork and corporate transparency. It is essential to require the sharing of knowledge to maintain a productive workplace.
- Build diverse teams. These teams will learn to trust and respect each other and ease the generational gap.
- Encourage leaders to be flexible in their management styles. Some generations prefer more instruction while others like to work independently and do not want to be micro-managed. Be sure to have a management style with some flexibility so that it works with a number of different audiences.
For more information on this topic, read the UNC Executive Development white paper Managing the Multigenerational Workplace.
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