Managing Principal – Discussion Partner Collaborative LLC

How To Manage A Four Generation Workforce With Panache

Managing a multi-generational workforce is a challenge that many organizations are facing today, as effective workforce planning strategies will require a shift in thinking from the topic of the “aging workforce” and instead address issues related to the “multigenerational workforce”.  Companies are stepping back and looking at more integrated ways of developing programs/deploying technology that will speak to four distinct generations in the workforce.  Each age group requires a different approach when designing career and compensation strategies, performance motivators, and addressing learning styles.  The biggest challenge, however, is how to effectively encourage collaboration among the four different generations of workers.

We can no longer think about human capital challenges purely in the context of the aging workforce. We can’t just think about what we can do to make Generation Y (aka millennials) happy in the workforce. Instead, we need to answer the following question.  “How do we best manage four active generations of workforce cohorts with differing expectations?”

Baby Boomers’ views of Gen Ys in the workplace include some of the following generalizations:

Gen Ys don’t have loyalty to the company

They have poor communication skills They are impatient and they don’t respect authority They spend too much time online I (Boomer) can’t get them to accept my job.

Gen Ys certainly don’t look like ‘we’ (Boomers) and their experience and backgrounds are vastly different than that of a typical Boomer. Our approach to work has been shaped by events and values that are very different than those that influenced Gen Y. No matter the role in your company, you will be managing Generation Y workers in the future and the task will be challenging.

There are an equal number of generalized perceptions about Boomers that are held by Gen Ys:

They are inefficient They don’t respect a Boomer They assume that the Boomer is interested in the career path that ‘they’ have chosen for the Boomer They are obsessed with face time and have too many meetings They don’t give the Boomer the latest technology and they don’t use technology effectively.

The real issue that underlies generational stereotypes is that there’s incomplete communication between differing generational groups.  Take, for instance, the analogy of the game ‘telephone’ in describing just how jumbled communication can get between differing generations.

One party speaks into the line and the other party either can’t hear the message or hears it incorrectly.  The breakdown in communication happens in both directions and leaves both parties feeling frustrated.  One “War Story” helps to put into context why Gen Y individuals are so different than Boomers.

An interesting tactic that some recruiters have used with success in hiring Generation Y workers is to involve their families in the hiring process as Gen Ys are very familycentric. This approach is not without its drawbacks, however.  Some employers are finding that once they’ve involved the family in the recruiting or hiring process, they’ve hired the whole family.  It is not uncommon to hear stories of parents calling employers to find out why their son or daughter got a poor performance review.  Obviously, this is not an experience that many Boomers can relate to in fact, in a poll of Boomers, some 60% felt that they would have been better off without parents at all.

One Response to “The Silent Generation Meets Generation Y”

  1. Stone | 12.24.11 at 12:40 PM said…

    If not for your writing this topic could be very convoluted and oblique.