How To Manage Different Generations At Work

In this clip from a recent Great Managers MasterClass, Sandra Wood looks at how to Motivate & Retain the Different Generations at Work.

Whether you’re a Baby Boomer, Gen X or Gen Y, it’s important to understand the differences between the generations to get the best from them.

In the video above, you’ll learn Sandra’s top tips for Managing the Baby Boomer generation.


[Prefer reading over videos?  Read on below!]

How to Manage Different Generations at Work

For the first time in history, we have four generations working side by side.

You might not have heard of all these generations but we still have people in what we called the Traditionalist Generation and it won’t be long before we start seeing our Generation Z coming in (then make it five generations).

baby boomer,generation x,generation y,millenial

But today we’re going to focus on the generations most represented in the workplace, which is our Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y.

What I’m going to show you in this MasterClass will help you understand the distinctions and the similarities between these three generations.

It will also enable you to adapt your approach so that you can Manage Different Generations PLUS motivate, retain and bring out the best in your diverse team.

I chose this topic because I’ve had a number of clients ask me about it, but I’ve also found that some managers struggle to work constructively with the different generations.

I want to be clear up front that there are many similarities between the generations.

My intention here is not to stereotype but to explore the patterns particular to each generation.

These patterns were developed due to what was going on in society and the world around us as each generation was growing up. The world around us does influence our upbringing and it influences our experiences as well.

So there are some generalisations or patterns that can be made.

Sometimes we judge the differences and get frustrated by them.  Often it’s age-based judgments that get in the way of people working together effectively.

I can remember very clearly my grandfather saying, “You kids today, you don’t respect elders anymore…” and I’m sure this sort of thing has been said since time began.

That’s the sort of frustration that I hear from clients.

How to Manage Baby Boomers

With Baby Boomers, be respectful!

They do tend to have traditional values and it’s important to do things in person face to face.

For example, if you’re giving them feedback, don’t send it in an email. They much prefer personal interactions and that’s something that Gen Y tends to admire about Baby Boomers.

They’re often motivated by position, power and prestige.

Title can be very important to this generation whereas it might not be as important for other generations.

Be flexible wherever possible because this is a generation that’s moving towards retirement and they want an easy transition to retirement. Most of them don’t want to go from working full time to full-time retirement. They like to transition out, so maybe moving to three days a week or something like that and then two.

How to Manage Generation X

The first tip is to give opportunities to learn new skills.manage different generations,people,leadership

This is a generation that wants free quick training that relates not just to the job but to their careers as well.

It’s a generation that looks for technology-based instruction which includes multimedia and interactive computer based training.

Generation X is ambitious and keen to learn.

Provide meaningful work and link what you do to your organisational values, to the bigger picture generally and also to improving humankind.

This is a generation that seeks fun. So make time for social interactions and fun at work.

A fun workplace is not necessarily an unproductive workplace.

Value their flexibility and autonomy to achieve desired goals.

How to Manage Generation Y

Let Gen Y know how what they do to fits into the big picture.

They need to understand how everything fits together and they want to affect change and make an impact.

They’re going to ask you lots of why questions.

They’ll often ask:

“Why do we do it in that particular way?”

“Why does it work like this?”

They’re very accustomed to finding out why and if you’re not going to tell them they’re good at finding out by asking other people or on the internet.

So clearly define your expectations.

These Millennials will need detailed instruction about what you want but let them determine how to get there.

Make sure you tell them about the outcome you want and then listen to their ideas.

Young workers are still learning about work so they need direction but let them determine how to get there and allow that active involvement.

They want open door policies so they can ask their questions and they will want to have input.

Be flexible as much as possible because this is a generation that seeks flexibility in things like work hours and dress code, this is important to them.

They want to balance lifestyle and work with more focus on lifestyles. So wherever you can, be flexible with them.

Create a relaxed working environment.

You might be aware that organisations like Google really target our Gen Ys. They have bright colours in their workplace, they have open-plan seating, they have lots of personal touches.

manage different generationsFinal Thoughts

So we have lots in common, we’re all human and everyone wants to feel valued and to know that they’re doing a good job.

Every generation wants effective communication so letting people know what you expect from them is really important.

Effective communication is also essential to build trust and respect regardless of the generation.

Everyone wants to work in an environment that is inclusive and enjoyable.

Everyone wants to work in a high performing team.

I strongly believe that everyone comes to work wanting to do a good job.

What you do and say as a leader plays a key role in how different generations will interact together.  It’s your Great Managers skills that will help you bridge the generational differences so that you can motivate and retain your generationally diverse team.