It is anticipated that by the year 2020, there could be up to five different generations in the workforce. With each different generation comes a completely new outlook on work ethics, morals, and methods of communicating.
Their differing ways of working stem from fundamentally different life experiences and understanding of the world. Values evolve as time progresses, and therefore leaders must embrace the diversity that this brings and ensure that their leadership style can be adaptive.
Within their management of this diverse workforce, leaders must also look to how they conduct training to cater for not just the largest portion of the workforce, soon to be millennials, but also the older and younger generations, which includes; The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X and the upcoming Gen Z who currently only occupy around 3% of the global workforce currently.
What are the generational differences?
The Silent Generation, recognised as those born between 1900 and 1945 (the end of the Second World War), are known for their loyalty and commitment to duty. They typically spend their entire career at one company and are clear rule-followers. They’re often excellent team players, however, moving into the new types of workplaces may be difficult for them as they are more inclined to struggle with technology, although they are known as one of the most engaged generations, eager to learn and develop.
Baby Boomers are known for their tendency to be ‘workaholics’, tying personal self-worth to their career and are often highly-motivated by titles, success and acquiring material representations of their achievements. They’re ambitious and tend to adapt to new technology, although they are known to prefer direct communication. Similarly to their predecessors, they are team players and work well in groups.
Generation X are independent and often more sceptical when it comes to authority. Their adaptable approach to work drives a results-driven attitude and is motivated by a need for security, resulting in the majority of them being highly self-sufficient.
Millennials are gradually conquering the workforce, making up one of the largest portions of the working world. Growing up using developing technologies and the internet, many are confident in their abilities and are comfortable multitasking. These members of the workforce are very much the driving force behind establishing better work/life balance and ensuring corporate social responsibility is at the core of the brands and businesses they care about and work for. Finally, they thrive in learning environments, where they're able to grow their skills and have access to advancement opportunities.
Finally, Gen Z or ‘Nexters’ are digital natives who are still in the early stages of their careers. Their attention spans and interpersonal skills are considered to be less developed than previous generations. Highly creative and open-minded, Gen Z is often not primarily motivated by money, but more so by the potential to lead a flexible lifestyle. They’re team players, unlike the Millennials who like their independence, prefer to work in small groups and communicate face-to-face.
How can leaders effectively manage a highly diverse workforce?
Ensuring that all of these unique groups of people are managed within the workplace in an effective manager ensures a cooperative multigenerational workplace that builds collaboration and yields the optimum results.
It is important to find common purpose across all of the generations working within your organisation or team. Different generations are driven by different things, such as millennials who value training and culture, or Baby Boomers are powered by the desire to achieve their goals and a better title. These differing generations will all be at different points in their career and therefore the workplace must be adaptive to ensure that management and approach are altered in terms of development, career progression, internal culture and company objectives.
Finding ways in which each generation can benefit and teach one another is a key way to implement teamwork and ensure open lines of communications are established. By collectively creating goals with the input of the wider team, management can ensure that objectives are aligned with the workforces views and ambitions.
Finally, integrating technology into ways of working in order to leverage team development allows managers to implement digitised coaching that is highly accessible, integrate chatbots and AI and is available to all employees. Not only will this act as a 24/7 ‘anywhere in the world’ resource, but will also help those less confident with technology to build their skills whilst learning and developing, without time restrictions and at their own pace.