Managing Multiple Generations In The Workplace
For one of the first times in history, there are five distinct generational groups present in the workplace, each of which possessing its own set of defining characteristics. Human Resources personnel and management are typically well versed with the unique demographic groups represented within their employee population. Now more than ever, it is crucial that awareness and knowledge of the distinct factors related to each group be a focal point. It has been proven that employee engagement, retention, performance and development are directly correlated with the manner in which an organization develops an inclusive culture. Whether your company has established a diversity and inclusion strategy or not, ensuring that all employees are both aware and receptive of your organization's related expectations is essential.
As a starting point, you should be well versed with the different demographic groups, along with the associated birth dates; be sure to consider the fact that the dates are approximate and somewhat flexible.
- Silent Traditionalists (1925-1945)
- Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
- Generation Xers (1965-1982)
- Millennials (1983-1999)
- Digital Natives (2000-Present)
A component of your organization's employee retention strategy must address the unique needs of each generational group. You will notice that everything from benefits to rewards and recognition are valued differently, necessitating attention to the unique qualities of the recipient. While developing and implementing human resource policies and initiatives that resonate with your entire employee population may seem daunting, it is possible.
This generational group represents the oldest demographic in the workforce, therefore the organization should recognize the value of a seasoned employee with extensive experience. With that being said, human resource policies that resonate with Silent Traditionalists will be rooted in acknowledgement of tenure; this demographic group is both committed and loyal to the employer-employee relationship. In other words, some of the employees with the longest tenure are silent traditionalists, who likely started in an entry level role and gradually moved up the ranks. Retain these employees, whose insight and knowledge of the organization's history can be leveraged to drive decisions moving forward, by providing significant long term benefits including pensions and health coverage.
Amongst the baby boomer generation are individuals who are approaching retirement age and have been in the workforce for the majority of their lives. One key differentiating factor that distances baby boomers from silent traditionalists is the manner in which they equate recognition with value and stability. Employees belonging to this group will not only take pride in being publicly recognized for their accomplishments, but they also will feel more stable within their roles. This will lead to subsequent boosts in productivity and contributions. With that being said, acknowledging their tenure and commitment on an organization-wide basis is a crucial component of retaining baby boomers. When recognizing baby boomers be sure to clearly align major organizational accomplishments with individual contributions.
Generation Xers were exposed to technology toward the early stages of their careers, so unlike the younger and older generations, they are able to leverage in-person and electronic communication styles. From a productivity standpoint this demographic group is at the epicenter and often times can provide 'translating' services as a liaison between older and younger colleagues. Rewarding this group of employees is fairly straightforward; the value of monetary incentives including stock options, gift cards, and merit increases are most impactful. Providing tuition reimbursement, or allowing individuals to continue their education and training at no cost, is also of high value amongst the Gen Xers. In order to drive retention, consider including a clause requiring that recipients of tuition reimbursement stay onboard for a specified period of time in order to retain the allocated funds.
This demographic group is currently the largest segment of the workforce population, and for this reason they are a focal point of many organization's engagement strategies. While certain considerations should be made to identify and include benefits that resonate with this group, it is equally important for older generations to understand how to manage and interact with millennials. Provide senior level employees that are managing millennials with training and tools to drive understanding of the unique needs and desires of the group. An additional area of consideration is the manner in which millennials communicate; while efficiency is key in getting tasks accomplished, older generations may not be as well versed with technology as their younger counterparts. Providing resources to bridge the gap on both sides and reinforcing the value of in-person and electronic communication is key. From a human resources perspective, consider implementing policies that address the desire that millennials hold for career development and opportunities to give back to others. In many organizations, structured career path initiatives are in place to provide accelerated opportunities for advancement.
The youngest generation, and the only one that has not experienced an internet-less world, are truly unique. While the majority are too young to join the workforce, preparing for their emergence is of high importance. This group regularly leverages technology at school, in their personal lives and a work, therefore they are well-versed with innovation and getting things accomplished efficiently. Because Digital Natives understand all of the options and features that accompany technology, they will seek out flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting and virtual work teams. As Digital Natives join the organization, be sure to structure policies accordingly and introduce trainings and resources that provide insight into the unique needs and desires of this group. Be diligent in demonstrating the value that they add to the organization and reinforce the fact that unique demographic differences amongst lead to innovation and growth.
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