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Keys to Managing a Multigenerational Workforce

Leading in a World of Diversity

Meeting Conference RoomThe best multigenerational workforce companies know how to be on the same page when setting objectives, completing projects and planning for future growth. Businesses rely heavily on departments that run smoothly and align closely with the needs of the rest of the organization. As time passes, however, an inevitable challenge for maintaining cohesion has arisen in many workplaces.

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Understand how the needs of millennials differ

In the first quarter of 2015, the number of millennials in the workforce, defined as people born between 1981 and 1997, surpassed baby boomers for the first time, according to Pew Research Center. Many departments have seen the development of a generation gap as baby boomer leaders find themselves working with a staff made up largely of millennials. If left unaddressed, an age difference between management and workers can lead to misunderstandings and inefficiency.

Cooperating effectively starts with considering how younger and older workers differ in what they want and expect out of their jobs. Computer World explained that millennial employees tend to take a big-picture perspective on their work, not content to stay in just one area. Rather, they seek to understand how their daily tasks are contributing to an organization as a whole and are interested in connecting directly with other departments.

Millennials tend to be used to more freedom and flexibility than their older peers, feeling that good ideas should be welcomed regardless of where someone stands in the corporate hierarchy. With the resources readily available to work remotely, they also commonly prefer to step away from the traditional office environment whenever possible. Millennials are often accustomed to collaborating more extensively than the previous generation, expecting concise and direct feedback more frequently than baby boomers. Keeping the lines of communication open may ensure they stay on-track to accomplish their goals.

Avoid over-generalizations

While adjusting to your place in a changing workforce, it's vital to examine your own assumptions. New workplace challenges arise daily. As The New York Times pointed out, your biases could be the reason for conflicts or low morale, even if you don't realize it. Try to avoid assuming that any particular employee will fit the conventional wisdom about an entire generation, and strive to treat each individual as a professional who deserves respect.

The need to overcome assumptions goes both ways. Millennials may demonstrate that they are hardier in the face of tough situations and more self-reliant than their older managers expect. Meanwhile, baby boomers can demonstrate a willingness to embrace change in the workplace environment, accepting that new business problems call for fresh approaches and that creative ideas can lead to streamlined processes. Boomers in senior management are uniquely positioned to cast vision across  multigenerational employees. This generation's counterparts that are climbing the ladder into leadership roles should be able to direct millennial employees with positive assertiveness.

Develop a unified vision

To bring people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences together, it's crucial for a department to have a shared mission. Leaders can break down the barriers between millennials and baby boomers by rallying everyone behind a shared set of objectives. Laying out a clear strategy while accepting suggestions from everyone brings a team together.

Modern workforces encounter a constant string of technical and business problems with a mandate to keep their organization ready to take on future challenges. Making connections between the values of older and younger employees and celebrating your collective accomplishments goes a long way toward building a cohesive team. By welcoming change, management can harness the expertise, energy and rule-breaking attitudes of younger employees to accomplish great things.

Continue to learn new skills

Staying relevant in an ever-changing world requires always learning how to use and optimize new technologies. For leaders, it's just as important to think about how you will continue working with new people over the years to come. If you're ready to take the next steps toward leading in a world of diversity, you could benefit from the Navigating the Modern Workforce: Diversity, Culture, Generations workshop. This 2 day workshop is part of a curriculum from the Center for Leadership and Development powered by New Horizons. Participants will develop the necessary skills to engage and empower our multi-generational workforce. The course covers topics such as leading with authenticity, overcoming challenges to employee engagement, avoiding cultural pitfalls, and more. Find the next scheduled course date that fits your schedule or watch this free course demo for Managing a Multigenerational Workforce.

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Terry Mott

Terry Mott

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