For the first time ever, employers are juggling an unprecedented five generations in the workplace. Having a multi-generational workplace offers opportunities like never before for more diversity of thought and for each to learn from one another—provided employers take into account the different needs of their teams.
Let's take a very brief look at the five generations in question and the traits that typically are ascribed to each.
- Silent Generation (Born 1925 to 1942): A few patriarchs remain although they represent a tiny slice of the current work population. Traits ascribed to them are loyalty and a respect for authority.
- Baby Boomer (Born 1946 to 1964): Agents of change, they are known for being highly competitive and hard-working. Baby Boomers are still very present in the workplace, retiring at a slower rate than their counterparts of earlier generations, whether for financial or personal reasons.
- Generation X (Born 1965 to 1980): This much smaller generation is often referred to as independent and self-reliant. They joined the workforce just as technology was becoming more commonplace.
- Millennial (Born 1981 to 2000): Although often falsely maligned for being “trophy kids," this generation has made its mark on the workplace by being individualistic, self-expressive and of course, tech-savvy.
- Generation Z (Born 2000 to present): The true digital natives, this cohort is also known for being entrepreneurial and independent.
Small- and medium-sized businesses are increasingly eager to demonstrate they are employers that can successfully unite the multi-generational workforce. Here are four strategies to try.
1. Update recruiting methods
It's essential for employers to examine their recruiting methods and see how they may appeal (or not) to a variety of generations. While a Baby Boomer might prefer to send a resume or find an individual's phone number or email to directly connect, younger generations might opt to begin the interview experience over their smartphone and use video to present their skills.
Offering choices, rather than insisting on a one-size-fits-all approach, can broaden your applicant pool and showcase your adaptability.
2. Find benefit options that appeal to all ages
While many Baby Boomers are more used to “face time" than “FaceTime," schedule flexibility is a benefit they can enjoy just as much as any generation. While some of your team members might be young parents; others might be part of the “sandwich generation," taking care of aging parents and growing teens. Still others might be caring for grandkids.
Get creative with your perks to drive employee enjoyment for all ages. Options such as wellness programs, commuting subsidies and paid volunteer time are just a few of the ways you can enrich your benefits plan in a way that every generation will appreciate.
3. Develop a reverse mentoring program
In traditional mentoring programs, a seasoned professional introduces a newer employee to industry and company knowledge and norms, which are valuable for career development. But younger “digital natives" can also help older generations who might not be as comfortable with tools like project management software, apps, and digital payment options.
Encourage employees to work together and share knowledge and expertise that can benefit generations in both directions.
4. Encourage a team mindset
Remember that many perceived generational differences may not be differences at all. In most cases, every employee—regardless of age—wants essentially the same things at work, such as respect, shared goals, and development opportunities. The key: Focusing on a common vision and encouraging employees of all ages to work toward it.
The opportunities presented by a multi-generational work force are vast—diverse viewpoints and experiences will lead to better engagement both internally and externally. When managers help their teams identify commonalities and embrace differences, they can create a cohesive, dynamic workforce.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.