• Views May 8, 2017

Take a look around a typical workplace these days and you are likely to see up to four generations all working together.

It’s no secret that seniors and Baby Boomers are now working beyond traditional retirement age, while the generations following them strive to get ahead. As a result, workplaces increasingly face the challenges of managing a multigenerational workforce. It takes effective leadership and people skills to navigate these dynamics while preserving your company’s culture and ensuring a productive and happy workplace.

I had the privilege of attending a panel on this topic recently at the annual Legal Marketing Association conference. The discussion was presented by Iris Jones, Chief Business Development & Marketing Officer, and Danyel Patrick, Business Development Coordinator – both of the law firm McNees, Wallace & Nurick – along with Nicole Abboud, Owner of Abboud Media.

The speakers examined how people are not only a product of how they were raised; it’s when they were raised that has a powerful impact on their values and how they communicate. For example, traditionalists (born before 1946) lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They are highly loyal workers who value respect and discipline. Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are often career-driven, goal-oriented (okay, workaholics) who expect the same work ethic from others. Members of Generation X (1965-1980) tend to be cynical and work to live, striving for more freedom and work-life balance. And finally, Millennials (1981-2002) are tech-savvy multi-taskers who sometimes come across as self-absorbed.

What’s a manager to do? The panelists presented several strategies for minimizing the challenges and bridging the generational gaps:  

Acknowledge: It’s okay to be who we are, but don’t make assumptions or abide by stereotypes. Talk about the differences and actively listen to each other.

Appreciate: Focus on the “why”, not the “what”. Foster an understanding of where people are coming from and you will facilitate better communication and teamwork.

Flexibility: Your values and work ethic may not be the same as the next person. Practice flexibility instead of projecting your beliefs or standards on others.  

Leverage: Each generation has unique strengths. Boomers are hard workers; Xers are good problem solvers; Millennials are digital natives. Combine the three and you have a powerful team.

Resolve: Inclusivity, open-mindedness, and collaboration tend to yield the best results. Resolve to make your workplace one that embraces these values across the generations.

Most good workers bring an attitude of “doing their best,” regardless of their backgrounds. Managing a multigenerational workforce requires a willingness to listen, an acceptance of each generation on its own terms, and an atmosphere of trust and collaboration.