People are your company’s most valuable asset. And right now, we’re at a point in history when four different generations of people are all working together—Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Since each generation has different values that have been shaped by the world around them, they do not always agree on the way a business should be run. But by understanding the unique needs of each generation, you can take steps to manage them effectively, and keep them engaged and productive on the job. Here’s what you need to know, generation by generation.
Traditionalists (ages 74-91)
Since the majority of this generation is retired, most that still work only do so because they want to; as a result, traditionalists are very engaged on the job. They value structure and rules and have an enormous respect for authority and hierarchy within an organization. They have been working for quite some time and are full of wisdom about their field.
To manage traditionalists, consider the following:
- Offer a flexible work schedule and let them determine the best way for them to contribute.
- Allow them to function as mentors to younger staff members, and as advisors to committees.
- Be sure they have clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
- Show appreciation the “old fashioned” way: In person and through written notes, plaques and awards.
Baby Boomers (ages 55-73)
Baby boomers grew up in a world that rewarded hard work and company loyalty. Perhaps because they are a work-centric bunch, boomers also invented the concept of work-life balance. They have a strong need for control, challenges and accomplishments.
The best way to manage boomers is by:
- Giving them control over how they work. Allow members of this generation to self-manage or work as part of a team, and allow them the option to telecommute.
- Providing recognition for accomplishments and letting them know they are a valuable part of the team.
- Allowing for leadership positions and mentorship to younger employees.
- Challenging them with friendly competition amongst staff members.
Generation X (ages 39-54)
This generation is extremely independent. Members are innovative, resourceful and focused on results. As they’ve lived through mergers and downsizing, “Gen Xers” tend to distrust institutions, with a greater reliance on themselves to accomplish their goals.
To manage Generation X workers:
- Allow them to work independently, with the option to collaborate, if desired.
- When assigning a task, be sure to explain its importance. Also, allow Generation X workers to prioritize their own assignments and schedule.
- Offer regular feedback but also information about how to constructively use the information.
- Provide the opportunity for visible recognition and promotion through hard work.
Millennials (ages 23-38)
More so than any other generation, millennials have grown up surrounded by technology and the Internet. As a result, they are tech savvy and socially connected. This generation is also altruistic and wants to make a difference through their contributions to the world around them.
The best ways to manage millennials involve the following:
- Offer ways for millennials to impart their knowledge. They’ve always had the entire world at their fingertips, so they’re quick to research, learn and share.
- Provide room for mentorship. With their thirst for knowledge, millennials are in a great position to learn the ins and outs of their industry through the sage leadership of a career mentor.
- Allow opportunity for socially significant work. Millennials are especially attracted to company missions that help to make the world a better place. They should be involved in special projects that let them put their social mindedness to work for the organization.
Harness the gifts of your entire workforce
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and all your workers have talents that add value to your organization. By taking steps to manage each generation in a way that’s appropriate to its members, you’ll be able to maximize the productivity of your individual workers. And that’s just good for business.