Managing a Multigenerational Workforce

With many workers staying in employment well past traditional retirement age, and millions of young people opting to move into apprenticeships immediately after school, businesses are increasingly faced with managing diverse teams, made up of people from many generations, each with their own culture and work ethic.

To add to this challenge, generations can no longer be neatly split into broad categories, such as ‘Baby Boomers’ ‘Gen X’ and ‘Millennials’ and managed accordingly. Instead, the fast-paced development of technology has led to the creation of more, much smaller generations defined by their experience of technology. Despite being just a decade apart in age, an employee in their thirties grew up with very different technology than someone in their twenties and may have different values and behaviour as a result. This presents an additional challenge for managers.

Interested to find out more about attitudes towards the multigenerational workforce, we recently undertook research amongst UK adults, predominantly between the ages of 30-60, to gather insights on their opinions towards each age group in the workplace. The results show that there are strong schools of thought about each of the generations.

When it comes to attitudes towards younger employees, as many as 45 percent believe that young people are not entering employment ‘work ready’, with a further third agreeing that managing and motivating young people is very difficult.

However, 37 percent of those surveyed argued against this, claiming that the negative stereotypes associated with young people are wrong. This demonstrates that there remains a huge divide in opinions when it comes to young employees.

When considering the older generation, opinions were far less conflicted. It was overwhelmingly agreed that it is not difficult to deploy older workers, with just 7 percent of those surveyed arguing the contrary, suggesting that that older workers continue to be valued members of a workforce well beyond retirement.

But, with such a vast age range in the workplace, how can senior leadership teams adapt their management styles to successfully lead and motivate a multigenerational workforce? We include some of our top tips below.

Encourage Collaboration

Each generation has its own unique working style but this doesn’t mean they are incompatible with each other. Moving away from a hierarchical system and encouraging your team to work together will benefit every employee in some way, whether this is learning from a colleague’s experience and wisdom, or being inspired by new ideas and approaches. Cross-generational mentoring schemes, where each generation learns a new skill from each other, can also be beneficial for breaking down barriers amongst age groups.

Take a Tailored Approach to Performance Management

Whatever their age, all employees want to be appreciated and recognised for their hard work. However, each generation will respond differently to feedback and it is down to their manager to adapt their style accordingly and provide praise and constructive feedback in a way that will resonate with the individual member of staff. For instance, a younger employee may prefer frequent and immediate feedback, whilst older employees might favour more formal reviews. Identifying which style each generation in the team responds most positively to will help managers get the very best out of every employee.

Utilise Each Generation’s Strengths

Each generation has its strengths and weaknesses. Members of Generation X are often considered to be very thoughtful, whilst younger generations have a reputation for working incredibly quickly. A successful manager must recognise these strengths and use them to their advantage.  By harnessing each generation’s talents and skills, businesses can create high-performing workforces far superior to those made up of a single age group.

Have the Flexibility to Accommodate Individual Needs

A one-size-fits-all list of benefits is no longer enough to motivate the modern workforce. Different generations are at different stages of their lives and will each have different requirements, whether this is the flexibility to work from home to accommodate childcare, the opportunity to travel and have new experiences, or the option of working part time. It is employers who recognise the importance of adapting to meet these requirements who will benefit from the rich range of opinions, experiences and approaches that a multigenerational workforce can offer a company.

To find out more, or to discuss a position you are currently recruiting for, get in touch with a member of our team today and see how we can help. We’d love to hear from you.