Managing a multi-generational workforce

Author- | Posted- | Updated: November 21, 2018 |

Managing a multi-generational workforce strategically

In most companies, there are at least two to three generations of employees working together. Generational diversity has its benefits only if companies manage it strategically.  Ageing of the employees has brought several major changes to workforce dynamics. Apart from the changed composition of the workforce, there has arisen a need to adopt new management styles which can help multiple generations to work together and contribute. A multi-generational workforce is not easy to manage. The differences are sometimes too big to be managed conveniently. Perceptions differ from generation to generation. The problem is compounded as baby-boomers are retiring in larger numbers. Attitudes and style as well as preferences vary with generations. The different attitudes sometimes give rise to tensions and even end up creating conflicts. If managed well, the rich composition of the workforce has the potential to increase productivity higher than your expectations. The first important thing to do for creating a high potential team is to manage the differences and align the objectives. Aligning the three generations can be full of hurdles.

The three generations are different and also similar in some aspects.  The baby boomers would like being serious and using a semi-formal style of communication. The case of Gen-Xers is different and they find the show of serious attitude before them disrespectful. Millenials prefer a fun work environment and informal style of communication. They want an environment that lets them think and act freely. The attitude of these three different generations towards work and authority differs.  Their priorities are just as different from each other.  It is why managing the tensions of a multi-generational workforce is a big tension for the employers and in US alone 60% of them are facing issues related to managing the diverse generations. The baby boomers are retiring and the traditionalists are now remaining there in small numbers.

Ask any of those 60% employers how big a tension it can be to manage three diverse groups. They have dissimilar tastes. The flavor of the baby boomers is different from the youngsters or the millenials and even their dreams are different. You cannot force the two to sit together and manage their differences and synchronize their styles.  When the two try to interact, unnecessary friction can happen because their edges do not fit. Particularly, the situation gets highly difficult in the healthcare sector. Synchronization in the workforce is very important in this sector, otherwise major losses will result in the form of delayed operations and disrupted workflow. Employers must mind these differences to form policies that can eradicate friction and conflicts. Finding success in a highly competitive environment depends on how well you manage the differences in your workforce. Now, there are so many differences and unless they are minimized the result would be only havoc.

What are the disadvantages of not managing a diverse multigenerational workforce?

You want your workforce to be happy, highly productive and work in a harmonious environment. Then address the generational differences  first. Addressing these differences can help at removing tensions and conflicts at the workplace. You do not manage these differences, the conflicts will increase and productivity will fall. Forget the conflicts, it will be difficult to retain the workers for longer. Apart from these things, recruitment, training and retention costs are gonna run high.  Reduced customer satisfaction is another problem to result from it.

What are the advantages of managing it?

Managing a diverse workforce will result in eradication of all the difficulties discussed above. There are several advantages that most employers want but few of them achieve.  Managing the differences between the multiple generations would mean that the organization has a steady and able force. Synchronization would lead to balance which would lead to optimal outcomes. Not just the training and retention costs will be reduced but it will also lead to the creation of an environment that drives performance and production. The end result would be customer satisfaction.

What must be the strategy?

The problem grows bigger when in an attempt to minimize the generational differences employers start discriminating. There are strategies that employers can adopt to bridge the differences and establish a harmonious environment. Employers must focus their strategies on the similarities and not on the differences. It is not difficult to bring a diverse workforce together if the focus remains on bringing collaboration. The best strategy is to develop generational competence.  However, before trying to bring generational competence or generational sensitivity, employers would need to focus on building a strong generational foundation. This does not apply only to the healthcare sector even in the other technology intense sectors like IT or communication, businesses can adopt these strategies to bride the generational gap.  The first important step is a to build a strong generational foundation. To do that, the company must conduct an evaluation first to determine the generational profile of the organization. After this step has been completed, the company can focus its recruitment efforts on acquiring inter-generational talent. The company must create job profiles as well as roles aligned with its strategy. Apart from it, the retention strategies of the companies must also be focused upon the retention of employees by segment.

This was only the foundation. Next stage is the development of effective management strategies suited for a multi-generational workforce.  Companies need to customize their management and communication styles to suit the needs of the workforce. Steps like flexible work hours and orientation and development programs can help with efficient management of a generationally diverse workforce. Companies must also tailor recognition and rewards to suit the needs of the diverse generations. Another very important thing that can foster collaboration between the various generations is the establishment of a collaborative culture. Developing programs for employee engagement and bringing equality can be an efficient step to minimize generational conflicts. Inclusive planning and decision making can help bring the various generations together. Culture and environment are important focus areas to be handled carefully.

The three generations have different work styles. One loves technology and working with it is fun. The other is slightly less attached to it.  The third comes somewhere in between. However, that does not mean that there are no similarities between them. These similarities can be used to design better strategies for performance management. Culture and environment can be the starting point from where organizations can solve the problems of a multi-generational workforce. Companies must use tools like social media blogs and websites to increase the level of collaboration inside their organization.

Sources:

http://www.aha.org/content/14/managing_multigenerational_workforce_ppt.pdf
Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.