Managing Multiple Generations in the Workplace

The face of today’s workforce is changing and the pace of that change is unprecedented. As the typical retirement age moves up and another generation enters the workplace, human capital management will continue to become more complex.

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

The Millennial Influx

In Mentoring Millennials, a Harvard Business Review article, the authors state:

“The makeup of the global workforce is undergoing a seismic shift: In four years Millennials—the people born between 1977 and 1997—will account for nearly half the employees in the world. In some companies, they already constitute a majority.”

In America, there are about 80 million millennials (also known as Generation Y, or Gen Y) and 76 million boomers[1]. Approximately 10,000 millennials turn 21 every day. In spite of inordinately high unemployment in this demographic, this generation will vastly influence the workplace of the future and is already having an impact.[2]

Retirement Recedes

At the other end of the demographic spectrum, older workers are increasingly growing their careers well beyond age 65 and global governments are leaning towards extending the retirement age as policy. So, there will likely be four—or five, depending on which expert you follow—very different generations of workers co-habiting the workplace for some time to come. As such, it’s critical that employers understand how each of these generations is motivated, what they need to perform to their potential and how they can best work together.

Some Workplace Needs Span Generations

According to Ceridian’s third annual Pulse of Talent, which explored generational differences in the workplace, employees feel most valued when employers use a customized, generational approach across three key areas:

  • Rewards and recognition programs that cater to specific expectations;
  •  Modes of communication that meet changing needs; and
  • Career paths that accommodate employee demands for mobility, productivity and work/life balance.[3] 

Generations Differ on Many Fronts

Although similarities were observed across generations (for example, 89 percent of all employees preferred face-to-face performance reviews), clear differences also emerged. For example, although all generations showed an interest in non-monetary rewards, their degree of preference was inversely related to age, with a difference of nearly 20 percent between Gen Y and Boomers.

Source: Ceridian. The Need for an Agile Approach to Human Capital Management

Other differences included the importance and frequency of feedback—while all generations want feedback, in this report Gen Y expressed the strongest interest in frequent feedback, and some sources suggest that Gen Y prefers “a constant stream of feedback.”[4]

As might be expected, the role of technology and social media were also perceived differently between generations, with 41 percent of Gen Y employees using social media to promote their company online and Gen Y also being most likely to complain about their employer online when dissatisfied.

Managing Multiple Generations Effectively

In her blog, Effectively Managing the Multigenerational Workforce, Dianne Durkin offers the following leadership tips:

  • Communicate uniquely with each generation
  • Accommodate employee differences
  • Create workplace choices
  • Be flexible in your leadership style
  • Respect competence and initiative
  • Nourish Retention

At the end of the day, which generation people are born into matters a lot less than whether they feel valued and respected at work. Providing employees with challenging, purposeful work in an environment that recognizes and rewards their unique contribution, while respecting their individual needs, is still the best approach to managing any diverse workforce.


Support strong working relationships across all generations with TribeHR, a pioneer in social HCM. Start your free trial today!

Link to original post

Leave a Reply