With Baby Boomers in the UK likely to be working longer than previous generations, three or four generations working at the same time in an organisation is no longer mere fantasy but a reality. For the first time in history, some organisations have four generations in the workplace: the World War II Generation (born 1929-1945), the Baby Boom Generation (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1979) and Generation Y, so called Millennials (born 1980-1999). As Baby Boomers (the ‘Sandwich Generation’) become the oldest group in the workforce, Millennials (the Net Generation) have entered workplaces that have changed dramatically, particularly in the past decade. And, by 2020, more than 50% of employees will be Millennials, while Baby Boomers will decline to just over 20%.
Issues faced by managers include differences in aspirations, values and expectations across generations, as well as similarities are not always clearly understood. To help managers be more effective in attracting, retaining and engaging with multiple generations in the workplace, this blog provides insights and explores complexities. These may help managers find solutions they can tailor for their workplace.
Because of dramatic changes (some may say disruptive) how we work, organisations are forced to rethink strategies for hire, retention and development, especially for Millennials. Policies are rewritten to take account of the aspirations, communication styles (face to face and online), use of social media, hot-desking and virtual working and even use of personal computing devices (BYOD – Bring Your Own Device), particularly among Millennials. With computer based technology at the heart of business and communication, and Millennials have not experienced the world without computers, managers need a deeper understanding of what are key drivers for team members. I suggest this requires a LEAP on the part of managers and leaders in how they engage with their teams. In this instance, the LEAP is not literal, but based on the acronym of Learn, Empower, Assess, Praise.
Team Leaders – be they managers or directors need to Learn more about the preferences of the various generations in their teams – it’s not only about millennials. Irrespective of generation, employees need to feel Empowered. This calls for managers to Assess situations and scenarios so as to ensure that no group can claim it is ignored or made to feel unwanted. Finally, and very importantly, there is the issue of Praise. Here is where there can be huge gaps between the generations in respect of expectations.
In a case study based on a survey of over 40,000 staff worldwide, one of the top four global accounting firms discovered the need to reshape the workplace in order to take account of the needs and views of Millennials it employed. The survey revealed that, irrespective of generational label, employees were committed to their workplace. Sceptics may argue that only committed employees had responded to the survey. However, those who responded were not shy about expressing their feelings about how they should be treated by their employer. For example, Millennials in the accounting firm expected to have support and appreciation from their employer. This attitude was in marked contrast to their more experienced colleagues who seemed more accepting of work-life imbalance. Millennials do not accept a workplace culture of being taken for granted! Instead, they expect their employers to recognise and reward them for their contribution.
Millennials expect to be acknowledged and praised for the individual contribution, not only for team efforts. For Baby Boomers, however, if that praise involves tangible financial recognition, they are more likely than Millennials to ask that financial rewards be added to their pension. When travel to overseas offices or clients is necessary, Millennials volunteer readily because they place high value on experience. In some instances, this can rank even above salary if afforded opportunities for adventure and gaining new experiences.
Repositioning Leadership and Management for multi-generational work requires managers and leaders to consider both attitude and aspirations of staff and promote alignment of their values and aspirations with the firm’s workplace culture and expectations. In managing or leading dynamic, high performing multi-generational teams require developing talent yet at the same time respecting the aspirations of all generations, especially the younger ones. However, such respect does not mean that managers sacrifice the organisation’s reputation so as to appeal to a specific segment of the workforce. Instead, decision-makers are called on to Learn more about the preferences of the generations in their teams and deepen understanding of what makes employees in each generation feel Empowered, even as they Assess situations and make informed decisions about what fits best with the organisation’s culture. Do remember also to Praise staff not just for meeting Key Performance Indicators (KPI), but also for initiative and creativity that impact positively on the team as well as benefit the organisation.
About the author
Dr Veronica Broomes, a results-oriented Trainer, Mentor and Consultant, delivers customised solutions for improved leadership and management and enhanced sustainability through effective use of resources. An expert on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability, Veronica has worked in the UK and internationally. In her current role, she is the Managing Director of Executive Solutions Training Ltd, a boutique capacity building and consulting company (www.executivesolutionstraining.co.uk). On Twitter, she is at @1st100days and @VeronicaBr.