As today’s leaders face an unprecedented multi-generational mix of workers, the challenge is that each generation brings differing expectations to the workplace. Skilled leaders have to account for varying expectations, work styles and communication preferences.
Whether promoting from within or recruiting a new leader, the organization must look for leaders who are able to:
Support flexible working options: Today’s office is a far cry from the classic “cubicle farms” of the past. Computers, smartphones and wireless Internet make it possible to work productively anywhere. Some more traditional employees may prefer the office, but younger employees approach work with a 24/7 anywhere, anytime attitude. Savvy leaders can yield higher productivity by remaining flexible about working options.
Coach employees and provide them with frequent “just in time” feedback: In today’s competitive business climate, annual-only reviews and infrequent feedback can lead to poor performance. Leaders must try to “catch employees doing something right” to reinforce productive behavior and motivate high standards of performance.
Encourage employee engagement: Engagement among many workers continues to dwindle. Providing them with development opportunities, such as “stretch assignments,” special projects and regular training, can make them feel valued and engaged.
Create mentoring opportunities: Mentoring relationships benefit both employees involved in the process. Older workers are flattered to share their experience while younger workers benefit from new insights. On the reverse, younger employees can help older ones with the latest technologies, programs and applications. Mentoring has the added benefit of bonding younger and older workers.
Employ a multi-channel communication style: Baby boomers and Gen X and Y don’t always communicate the same way. Boomers often prefer memos, emails, voice mail and face-to-face meetings. Gen X and Yers tend to prefer texting, tweeting and video-conferencing to face-to-face meetings. Savvy leaders maximize all of these communication channels to make themselves understood.
Accommodate individual employee schedules: While baby boomers and now Gen Xers, traditionally prioritized work over personal time, younger employees typically don’t want to abide by the old 9-to-5. Allowing for flexibility when it comes to employee schedules can go a long way — it allows employees of all generations to take care of personal and family needs while remaining productive.
Celebrate employee accomplishments: Leaders must seek opportunities to pat employees on the back for good work. Formal recognition programs can help build teamwork. In addition, frequent feedback on performance is crucial — especially for millennials.
Bridging the Gap
When managing different generations we also have to remember that each employee is an individual with unique characteristics, skills and needs. One of the leader’s most powerful tools is the ability to manage employees individually. Multigenerational leaders can do this by:
• Assessing employees’ personality and behavioral styles.
• Discussing the employees’ wants, needs and aspirations.
• Soliciting employee input on organizational issues and opportunities.
Today’s leaders have to allow for the differences that diverse generations bring to the table while remaining flexible and dynamic enough to engage employees individually.
Chuck Sujansky is the CEO of KEYGroup, a speaking, consulting, assessment and training company. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.