Multi-Generations – An Alternate View

imagesIn order to create a well balanced blog and provide an alternate viewpoint we have inserted an article in its entirety written by Chris Ferdinandi on June 24, 2009 for the blog Renegade HR.  

We believe that shared values within each of the generations shapes behaviour and impacts how the generations related to each other. Chris on the other hand is not so convinced.  We’ll now turn it over to Chris to provide the alternate viewpoint.

 Over the last few years, there’s been an explosion of information about how to manage a multi-generational workforce.

There have been countless articles, seminars and books on how to keep the Millennials engaged and how to help Baby Boomers and Gen X employees work with them more effectively. I think that’s all a big waste of time.

I don’t do thinks because I’m Generation Y

The big theory around multi-generational workforces is that shared experiences during a generation’s formative years creates a set of shared values that guide their behavior. Gen-Y is allegedly very influenced by 9/11, helicopter parents and exponential growth in technology.

I’ll admit that technology is something my generation is, generally speaking, very comfortable with. But I have friends who aren’t on Facebook, and I know plenty of Boomers who text and email far more than they pick up a phone.

There’s as much diversity within generations as there is between them

Given that level of diversity doesn’t it makes sense to stop focusing on differences between generations, and start looking at differences between individuals?

The Individual Workforce

The real goal of the multi-generational workforce movement is to help everyone in your organization work together effectively. Focusing on generations is divisive. It requires you to lump people into categories and teaches managers to treat everyone within that category the same. Doesn’t it make more sense to teach managers how to deal with individual work preferences?

I think organizations could manage a diverse workforce much more effectively if they took all of the “stuff” that gets taught during multi-generational seminars and ripped away the generational labels.

Teach managers why some people prefer to text or email instead of call. Teach them to have discussions with their employees about how they prefer to work, and to get out of the way and let their people do amazing things


Finding and Keeping the Next Generation

In this video Alexander Di Felice (Journal of Accountancy) discusses how to find and retain the next generation of workers.  Listen carefully as she describes “The Magic Bullet”. 

The “Magic Bullet” represents a way for all generations to work better together. 

Generation Gap at Work – The Cost

images3Many interactions between generations in the workplace are positive and often go unnoticed.  It’s the negative experiences that get noticed and cause people to expend time, energy and emotional resources.  Workplace issues between members of different generations are generally not pleasant or productive.  Research indicates that these types of experiences are taking place more often resulting in decreased productivity and employee satisfaction.  In short these negative experiences represent a real cost (i.e. falling productivity, increased turnover and lost opportunities) to organizations.

Research into multi-generational issues across a wide variety of different organizations is an active field of study.  Current research seems to suggests that varying levels of employee disenchantment, miscommunication and ill will attributed to generational differences exists in all organizations.  The research specifically identifies the following:

Generational Differences Are Real

The ideals, values, traits, goals and characteristics held by the four generations currently in the workforce are increasingly different from one another.  These differences are often substantial and play a significant role in how members of each group relate to one another.  Specific differences between generations include communication styles, work expectations, work styles, attitudes about work/life balance, comfort with technology, views regarding loyalty/authority and acceptance of change.

Generational Differences Cause Misunderstanding

It is widely recognized and accepted that people of different generations are often not on the same page.  The lack of commonly held beliefs and experiences across the generations is often the root cause misunderstandings between the generations.  Misunderstandings lead to tensions and these misunderstandings are often difficult for co-workers to settle on their own without some form of management/external intervention.

Generational Issues Impact The Workplace

Misunderstandings and strife within an organization negatively impact employee interaction and productivity. Consequently, the entire organization suffers as valuable time, energy and emotions are wasted dealing with crises rather than managing the business.   Differing work and life expectations can also create tensions.

Generational Differences Can Be Minimized

Having a solid understanding of all generations in the workplace is critical.  Though differences between generations seem to be increasing steps can be taken to minimize the negative outcomes.  These some of these steps have been identified in earlier blog postings.

Harnessing Multi-Generational Energy

200_Pledge_buttonDr Bob Rausch (aka “The Energy Doctor”) a noted American author and motivational speaker views multi-generations in the workplace in terms of the energy they provide to the organization.  The way in which a single person uses his/her personal energy impacts everything from performance to productivity and ultimately to the success of the company.  Dr. Rausch has identified 13 specific steps that organizations can take to maximize energy across the generations. These steps can be used in conjunction with information provided earlier in the blog entry titled “Best Practices for Managing a Multi-Generational Group”.

13 Steps to Maximize Multi-Generational Energy

1   Recognize the benefits of each generation

2   Accept differences as strengths

3   Overdo communication as much as possible; encourage open exchange of differing points of view

4   Make listening more important than speaking

5   Select employees with different backgrounds, experiences, skills, and viewpoints to strengthen teams. As much as    possible, match individual strengths with a team need

6   Reward shared knowledge and discourage scared knowledge (if I share it and it works, someone else gets the credit; if it doesn’t work, I get the blame)

7   Adopt a management style that:

  • Employs direct communication.
  • Is goal-specific and accurately measures goals.
  • Turns people loose to do the job.
  • Provides regular feedback.
  • Rewards appropriately

8   Create a learning/teaching environment; everyone is a learner and everyone can become a teacher

9   Assume the BEST about your workers

10  Respect competence and initiative

11 Nurture retention through continuous training and individual development

12  Provide and remind employees of the benefits of working where they work

13  Look for every possible way to increase employee energy

Future Leadership Challenges

images1In the US and many other developed countries the birth rate has been dropping since the late 1960s.  In the US it has been estimated that by 2010 the number of people in the 35-44 (i.e. the middle management age-group) will drop by nearly 20%.

Moving forward companies will need to increasingly rely on leaders from Gen X or the millennial generation. Demographics suggest that there will be fewer of these individuals physically available so organizations will have to work hard to attract and retain these valuable human assets.

Attracting & Retaining the New Generation of Leaders

Many have talked about how individuals from Gen X and the millennial generation have a predisposition for moving from company to company in pursuit of better opportunities.  It seems reasonable therefore to suggest that employers/organizations need to offer an environment that supports these individuals without alienating the other generations.

Creating an Environment for the New Generation of Leaders

  • Offer ongoing training and development opportunities especially in areas related to organization, time management, leadership, and communication. Gen X and millennial leaders love to learn so opportunities to grow are considered a high priority
  • Increase non-monetary benefits – Gen X and millennial leaders tend to value personal time as much as compensation. They have busy lives outside of work so increase vacation benefits where possible and offer flexible working hours
  • Offer freedom/autonomy – Gen X and millennial leaders are self-reliant and don’t always look to a leader for direction – give them the freedom to make their own decisions
  • Earn loyalty and respect – Gen X and millennial leaders may not automatically be loyal to hierarchal supervisors. They thrive under supervisors who practice open communication, who are supportive and demonstrate that they are worthy of being followed
  • Embrace Equality – Gen X and millennial leaders grew up with mothers who often worked. They are used to viewing women and men equally so be sure organizational compensation system rewards both genders equally
  • Promote a “Green” Agenda – Gen X and millennial leaders are extremely environmentally conscious. These leaders have grown up with “Earth Day” and the threat of global warming – they want to make less of an impact on the environment and expect their employers to have a similar philosophy
  • Provide regular work group outings such as sports, picnics and concerts. Gex and leaders like to have fun at work.   Be sure that the particular social outings are those that best relate to the culture and interests of all the coworkers. Make sure these are optional- not all will be interested in attending
  • Celebrate successes both work related and individual successes.  Throw a late afternoon party at a favorite watering hole when an important project is completed, or throw a party for no reason at all occasionally.  When someone in the group has an important moment (school graduation, new baby or new house) celebrate with them.  Make these celebrations optional so that those who do not want or need these types of activities are not made to feel that they are not a part of the group
  • Close the office unexpectedly an hour or two occasionally- send people home to play and have their own fun

Best Practices For Managing a Multi-Generational Group

CAQ747DSCADN1A63CA6SMJ1NCAXLOTRRCAIFAUPNCA66JA1XCARXVTNECAZY0EU2CAKGFKPMCAV1G0Y1CAN6F6DXCAWY0VT1CAHQWFZZCAU0PQ9PCAF49A4TCA15AQKCCASXNBBACAZ9I3U0CA46X7JUIn today’s society managers have the opportunity to supervise four different generations at once. This multi-generational workforce is the first of its kind and managers are learning ways to bridge the gap between the generations.  There are a few best practices noted to assist in merging the different generations into a cohesive workforce. 

Since the multi-generational workforce is a relatively new field of study the following tools should prove useful. 

Managerial Flexibility

As a manager in today’s workforce you have to be flexible to the needs and wants of the different generations employed today. As each generation enters and exits the workforce their motivation changes, what motives one generation does not necessary hold true for the others. As a manager being flexible will enable each generation to find a common ground. 

Provide Training

Another useful tool is to develop new training programs, so that the older generation will have the opportunity to learn and grow with the company. Also, it will provide the younger generation the opportunity to learn their new job at a faster pace. Developing new training programs will also encourage the company to update its current processes so that the new ideas being submitted by the younger generation will not fall on deaf ears.

Encourage Mentoring

Another useful tool managers can use is mentoring, since there are four generation in the workforce today, it is a good opportunity for the more experience workers to pass down their knowledge and skills they have accumulated over the years to the new and up and coming workforce. This transfer of knowledge along with the technical expertise of the younger generation will provide a new workforce for companies to build around. 

Embrace Diversity

Finally, managers have to appreciate each generation’s differences, their work ethic, commitment, training needs, and priorities are all different. Although we have four generations in today’s workforce they all can learn from one another. The experienced workforce can appreciate the technology age of the younger generation, and the younger generation can appreciate the commitment and work ethic from the more experienced workers.

Managing Conflict in a Multi-Generational Workforce

CA3Z6IZYCA4XBQ3UCAL10PY0CAHZB36XCA1VW2WQCA09YUTYCAA25LF1CAMLC04YCAKRIOXZCA0KX7Q2CA6HC4B1CAF4BOT2CACVC4M9CATB46N8CAZK61V5CASANYP1CA21Y1YTCAQM7OFICAQR6OE5Managing a diverse workforce can certainly be challenging and problematic at best.  As more of the Millennials enter the workforce and work side by side with the Baby Boomers, Matures and Generation-Xers, the more managers have to learn that one approach does not fit all.  This is because each generation has unique view points and values that contrast their specific generation.

If you want to be an effective leader and manager you must encourage others to learn from the diversity of each generation.  This means that with each generation there is a possibility that conflict may erupt.  In this article I will define some guidelines that may mitigate or prevent negative conflict from happening.

Identify the Generations

Each generation is different and should be defined differently by their values and their perception of work.  To recap the Matures were born between 1922 and 1946. The Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.  Generation-X was born between 1964 and 1980.  The Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000.  Conflicts between generations usually involve differences in core values and life experiences.  This can be mitigated somewhat by understanding the values and experiences unique to each generation.

Employ the Talents and Strengths of Each Generation

This is an important aspect of resolving negative conflict at the organizational level.  Each generation has great strengths and talents that define them.  As a leader you must recognize and emphasize with each generation and acknowledge the contributions they bring to the workforce.  Once you show each generation that there is value in their contributions the easier it will be for the different generations to accept each other.  This allows a dialogue to be established and each group’s viewpoints about the other to come to light – learning happens naturally.  This learning leads to better understanding across the generations.

Adopt a Management Style that Enables Each Generation

Basically you must employ different management styles to compliment each generation and be on the lookout for negative conflict.  Biases also tend to be a factor here. For example you may be a Baby Boomer manager in charge of a group of Millennials; you “live to work and you are defined by that work”.  Millennials get bored easy and “live for the moment”.  This is where you have to adapt your management style and allow compromise and collaboration to take hold. 

A flexible management style demonstrates to each generation that you are aware, objective and adapt to each unique situation and to the different people involved.  Instead of dealing with each generation it becomes more about dealing with the problem and less about the people.

 Acknowledge What You Cannot Change

You have to admit to yourself that you cannot change everybody and you need to be aware of what motivates each generation.  In one instance a Mature may want a bonus where as a Gen-X’er may want time off for a good job.  You have to find the motivational factor that will bring about a sense of cohesion within the team. 

Generational differences will always bring about confrontation unless the guidelines stated above are employed and used on a continuous basis.  Using these guidelines will help draw on the strengths of each group and will help develop a stronger organization.  In the end it is about a strong workplace with both young and old alike working together harmoniously and perusing the same goals.