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Challenges In Managing The Generation Mix In The Workplace

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Challenges In Managing The Generation Mix In The Workplace

Managers today are faced with a different set of problems that are completely different from what their predecessors have come across. Instead, it is a challenging task wherein they need to manage different generations – the Veterans, the baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y. All the four generations are seen working together which results in some amount of friction and collision at workplace. Each generation has its own set of values, perceptions and views about the best way of doing things. Managers today need to handle these differences so as to ensure that productivity and morale does not suffer in the process.

Understanding the generation gap – Typically, employees can be categorized into 4 generations. They are:

  • Pre-War Veterans or Traditionalists who are  born between 1922 and 1946
  • Baby Boomers who are born between 1946 and 1964
  • The Generation X who are born between the years 1964 and 1980
  • The Millennials who are sometimes called Generation Y or the Nexters are those born between the years 1980 and 2000

Remember that each of these four generations belongs to different time period and they grew up experiencing different events. This largely influences their values and perceptions.

Derive the strengths of each generation – Once you know which of the following employees fall into a particular generation group, focus and capitalize on their strengths while respecting their values. Often it is observed that majority of conflicts in the workplace arise due to differences in value systems. For e.g. the Veterans may feel that the Millennials are not taking their work seriously while the Gen Xers may think that Baby boomers are too rigid. It is necessary to create an atmosphere wherein there can be mutual learning while valuing individual strengths.

Devise management style for each generation – To lead the four different generations of people, it is important to practice four different management styles. It is worthy to manage employees according to their value system rather than sticking to one’s own value.  It is important to understand their individual view point and communication style and respond suitably.

Emphasize commonality – It is of utmost important for all employees in workplace to forget their differences and have a sense of common purpose. Employees should be respected for their competence and initiative to achieve the common objective.

Given importance to retention – With rapid changes in technology, it is possible that the veterans may not be up-to-date in using the new technology. However, their capacity to contribute cannot be undermined solely because they are not tech-savy. Giving them suitable training will help them better adapt to the changing business scenarios and organizations will benefit from their business acumen developed over years.

Authors Zemke, Raines and Filipczak, in their book “Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace” summarize by saying that managing the diversity of age, experience, value and view is indeed diversity management in its most challenging form.

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  • Health care has age specific guidelines which are helpful. But I have also found that treating people no matter what age with respect is the best bet. Though challenging at times a team made up of different generations has much to offer.