Managing Different Generations

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As a manager you not only need to deal with employees with different personalities and likes and dislikes, but you also need to be able to manage across the different generations that exist in today’s workplace.

Each generation at work has it’s own preferred way of communicating, of being managed and it motivated by different things. Today’s diverse workplaces often mean that you may have to manage individuals with 1 or 2 months of experience right up to individuals with more than 30 years of experience.

In order for you to be successful you need to be able to understand and influence the various generations at work today.

A generation is defined as ‘a body of individuals born in approximately the same time period who generally share similar behaviours and attitudes’.

Being able to manage each generation differently will help you

  • Communicate better with your team
  • Increase employee retention
  • Devise appropriate employee motivation methods
  • Increase productivity and teamwork.
  • Understand how to handle issues and conflicts that arise within each generation.

Managing Each Generation

Over the next couple of pages we will understand what makes up the four generations at work, why they should each be managed differently, along with characteristics for each generation and things to keep in mind when managing them.

1.What are the Four Generations at Work?

The four generations that are currently present in the workplace include:

  • The traditionalists who were born between 1922 – 1945
  • The baby boomers who were born between 1946 – 1964
  • Generation X who were born between 1965 – 1982
  • Generation Y who were born between 1983 – 1997

Each generation has different social, political and economic influences, family structure and influence, education, values and work ethics.

They also differ in their leadership approach, communication style, motivators, interaction styles, approach to feedback, financial behaviours, relationship with technology, expectations and view towards the organisation.

2. Why should they be managed differently?

Each generation at work has its own expectations, motivations, attitudes and behaviors.

An understanding of how they are different and how to manage them can help you as a manager deal with workplace issues with greater insight. It also allows you to leverage the strengths that each generation brings to the workplace in order to enhance the team’s productivity and achievement.

3. Characteristics of Traditionalists

  • This generation is also known as the silent generation
  • They tend to be hardworking with a strong work ethic and are willing to work long hours to get ahead and earn their salaries.
  • Loyal and are likely to have worked for the same employer for their entire lives. They are less likely to change jobs as compared with the younger generations.
  • Submissive – they respect authority and are good team players who promote harmony at work. They are valuable in team tasks and make good mentors.
  • Tech-Challenged and less able to deal with new technology than the other three generations, which means you may want to spend additional funds on training them.
  • Traditional in their outlook and view points and not very open to change and new ways of doing things, they may need to see the value before doing a task.

4. Characteristics of Baby Boomers

  • Predominately in their late 40’s and 50’s and are well established and hold positions of power and authority.
  • They are extremely hard working and work-centric and are motivated by perks, position, and prestige, they can be motivated by these things.
  • Enjoy long work weeks and are defined by their professional accomplishments.
  • They are confident and independent and self-reliant, they are not afraid of
  • confrontation and of challenging the status quo. They may not make the best team players because of this trait.
  • They tend to be goal oriented and competitive.

5. Characteristics of Gen X

  • Tend to be more ethnically diverse and better educated than the baby boomers and over 60% of them attended college.
  • They are individualistic, independent, resourceful and self-sufficient. You can give them a task and trust them to complete it.
  • They value freedom and responsibility and dislike authority and structured work hours. You may want to allow them flexible work hours or more freedom.
  • They dislike being micro-managed and prefer to be allowed to do their own thing.
  • They are technologically adept and comfortable with technology.
  • They are more flexible and are willing to change jobs and value their work/life balance, as a manager you may want to keep an eye on them to ensure that they are happy and motivated at work, else they are more likely to change jobs than your other team members.

6. Characteristics of Gen Y

  • Tend to be the most confident but also the most self-absorbed and demanding generation.
  • Are ambitious and believe they can achieve anything.
  • They are the most tech-savvy generation and rely on technology to perform their jobs better. They are plugged in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These are the individuals to approach to implement a new system or process.
  • They are family centric and will prioritize family over work.
  • They are achievement-oriented and have high expectations from the people they work for.
  • They are not afraid to question authority and rock the boat. They want meaningful work accompanied by adequate learning.
  • They value teamwork and are loyal and committed and love to be included and   involved.
  • They crave attention in the form of feedback and guidance and seek praise and reassurance and want to be kept in the loop.