Creating a Strategy for All Generations
The fact that there are multiple generations in the workplace and that they have different values and expectations impacts every aspect of an organization’s people strategies. This includes how organizations attract employees, how they keep top employees and how they help employees grow.
They key is the build integrated people solutions that are flexible and broad enough to speak to the values and motivators of all four generations.
Building the Business Case for Integrated and Interactive Problem Solving
Sometimes it can be difficult to convince senior leaders that generational differences are an issue. For example, some Baby Boomer leaders may not be aware of the people challenges that middle managers face when working with different generations. This is often because management only works with their own generation so they are unaware of the challenges that emerge when trying to engage and lead front-line employees.
So how do you convince leaders that this is an issue that should be addressed?
- Gather stories from managers: What’s the issue and what was the impact?
- Present media articles that high-light generational differences and the impact on business performance
- Analyze your engagement scores along generational lines, is there a difference?
- Compare engagement scores by departments against key performance indicators
- Conduct your own survey – what generational differences have occurred that have reduced team performance & productivity?
- Calculate the costs of recruitment and, more important, turn-over for at risk roles (usually positions that Gen Ys hold and may be more likely to leave within the first year of employment)
Once you have convinced senior leaders of the issues facing your organization, you can work to solve some common problems that arise from having a multigenerational workforce.
Some common issues (and potential solutions) are listed below:
Working with Baby Boomers Close to Retirement
Many organizations employ a large number of Baby Boomers, which is impacting performance levels as employees age and require additional support.. Despite the fact that employees are nearing retirement age, many Baby Boomers want to or need to continue working. Organizations are then faced with the challenge of supporting those employees while still ensuring that the organization remains productive.
How can this be done?
Some ways to engage Baby Boomers include:
- Supporting them in learning new skills (while recognizing their reluctance to admit areas of development)
- Find projects in which they can put their stamp on things and continue to raise their profile in the organization
- Modify their work – engage them as field trainers, coaches, etc. (especially in jobs that require physical labour)
- Create an open environment where they can express what projects they are interested in working on
- Manage performance effectively through formal and informal performance management discussions
Orientation: Integrating Younger Colleagues
Another challenge that many organizations face is how to successfully integrate Gen Y employees into existing teams. Many organizations spend a lot of money, time and effort in recruiting Gen Ys, but find that there is still high turnover within this cohort.
So how can you more successfully integrate younger colleagues?
- Managing expectations during the recruitment phase – the recruitment messages should honestly reflect your organizational culture
- Creating a “buddy program” to help new employees understand the organization and the informal culture that exists
- Holding orientation programs that instill organizational values while also encouraging new employees to successfully integrate themselves into their work teams
- Educating Gen Ys on the values and expectations of the other generations and how to successfully navigate the business environment
- Educating managers on how to on-board new employees with more frequent touch points
- Ensuring that colleagues get to know new Gen Y employees on a personal level, to strength relationships
Managing More Experienced Employees
Organizations have increasingly more Gen Xers and Gen Ys in supervisor and manager positions. In many of these cases, younger leaders are expected to manage more experienced Baby Boomer and Traditionalist employees. This can lead to challenges.
Baby Boomer and Traditionalist may not respect the authority of younger manager. Sometimes they go above them to more senior people to discuss issues, get defensive when younger managers provide coaching, or feel angry during performance reviews.
Organizations can handle these issues in a number of ways, including:
- Acknowledging the emotional component for Baby Boomers and Traditionalists in being managed by someone younger
- Explaining to Gen Ys how their desires to be hyper collaborative may be received negatively by Baby Boomers
- Explaining to Gen Xers how their straightforward, to-the-point management styles may be misinterpreted as too direct
- Valuing the years of experience that Baby Boomer and Traditionalist employees have and asking them to share what they know through informal learning mechanisms
- Learning how Baby Boomers and Traditionalists want to be managed
As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.