Leadership Strategy in the Five-Generation Workplace

Tuesday, May 8 2018

We are embarking on an exciting, yet challenging time in our organizations; for the first time in history, five generations will be working side-by-side.

Each of the five has its own general traits and characteristics.  Core values, work ethic, communication style, and feedback needs tend to be similar within a generation; however, these can vary greatly between the cohorts.  Despite the differences, there are important similarities across the generations, including the expectation of job satisfaction, feeling valued, and having their needs met, whatever those needs may be.

Leaders must consider the differences as well as the similarities in order to effectively create and execute a successful strategy in a multigenerational workplace. Three approaches to consider:

Gather Segmented Input

When creating a vision and plan, whether it’s for three months or three years, it’s beneficial to gather input from those who will be responsible for its execution.  This will pay dividends when asking those individuals and teams to act on the plan.

Consider segmenting the data you are gathering along generational lines and analyze at both the macro and micro level. On the macro level you may find that all groups identify increased training as important; however differences in the details might be detected for each generation. For instance, Baby Boomers may want classroom training while Millennials want to use videos to increase their skills.  Everyone will want a work environment that maximizes their productivity, but expectations about how to achieve that will likely be different; one group may find open concept offices distracting, while another believes it encourages collaboration.

Create Multigenerational Teams

Multigenerational teams in which members trust, support, respect, and guide each other, can assist in creating and executing strategic initiatives.  They can play a part in the planning process and can also assist in gathering or disseminating information to their generational peer groups. Multigenerational teams may be used as part of the organization’s hiring strategy to help prevent undue preference being given to one generation over another.

Ensure the teams accurately reflect the generational diversity of the workplace.

Squash Negative Stereotypes

“They” are not productive in the workplace – we’ve all heard it before. Avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes and focus on the positives instead.  Accept the differences of the multigenerational workforce.  Strive to create and execute strategies around the unique motivations, technical abilities, leadership expectations, learning styles, work ethic, communication styles, and core values of each generation.

In the end, it’s important to create a strategy that inspires everyone, which means first understanding all the generations. Pay attention to the unique benefits each brings to the workplace and the specific needs that must be met to maximize performance.  Regardless of the generation, listening to, understanding, and respecting everyone is always a great strategy for workplace success.