Plenty of ink has been expended writing about millennials entering the workplace. Although they are defined by having been born during the historic transition between millennia, in many ways, millennials are no different than previous generations. To be sure, they’ve been raised on digital media, and that certainly differentiates them from previous generations. But the challenges involved in managing multigenerational workplaces have always existed.
Every generation enters the workforce with a unique set of values and expectations for the workplace. But some of those expectations may be viewed as timeless and universal: Employees desire a sense of purpose; adequate, clear feedback to help them understand how to meet the expectations placed on them; and at least some ability to achieve a measure of personal-life/work-life balance.
Managers can overcome any generational differences by focusing on three areas: common ground, leveraging strengths, and immediate feedback. Human resources can support managers by developing policies and providing software that can facilitate feedback in real time.
Common Goals Create Common Ground
Every organization has quarterly, semester, or yearly goals, and each department should have a strategic plan to support corporate goals. Goals are the glue, or common ground, that holds the team together. The team decides the metrics they will use to measure progress toward the goal. Then they create strategies for how to achieve the goal. Strategies should be fluid, not fixed. This flexibility allows the team to alter or switch strategies if the initial idea does not work.
[bctt tweet=”Goals are the glue, or common ground, that holds teams together.” username=”reflektive”]
Setting the expectation of a fluid strategy will provide the flexibility millennials typically desire. It will also reflect the independence Generation X likes, the ability to challenge that baby boomers value, and the opportunity for pre-boomers to continue to be team players. Human resources can create a training class on how to set attainable goals and provide a strategic planning template for the departments to use. The culture of the company will determine whether these will be top-down goals or collaborative goals.
Leveraging Strengths Creates Respect and Trust
Everyone has a unique set of strengths, but some strengths are more common among particular generations. Pre-boomers and baby boomers may be technologically challenged, but they can provide their team a wealth of knowledge and experience. Generation X and millennials do not possess years of experience, but they are technologically savvy. By pairing employees with different strengths, a manager can accomplish two things: strengthen the skills of each individual, and build respect among the team as each team member sees the value the other person brings.
Leverage individual strengths by assigning employees to cross-functional teams or to group projects.
Working together on specific projects or tasks can be motivating for millennials and baby boomers, as they typically enjoy working collaboratively. Pre-boomers will be motivated as they see their hard work pay off, and Generation X employees will value the opportunity to be viewed as leaders. Companies can leverage individual strengths by assigning employees to cross-functional teams or to group projects. The human resource department can develop a formal mentoring program to encourage skill development and leadership development within their organization.
Immediate Feedback Can Blunt Conflict and Solidify Expectations
Employees want to know how to meet or exceed the expectations of the organization. The manager’s role is to set clear expectations for the team or individual employee. People process information differently, so feedback should be provided verbally, visually, and by demonstration, if appropriate.
[bctt tweet=”The more immediate your feedback, the more meaningful it will be.” username=”reflektive”]
The more immediate the feedback, the more meaningful it will be. Many negative consequences can arise from delaying or avoiding feedback. Conflict may develop among the team, mediocrity may become acceptable, individual employees may be shocked and surprised by a low performance rating and retaliate. Human resources should provide training for managers regarding how to give feedback and how to record it. Human resources can also outline what behaviors and skill sets are required to meet or exceed expectations in order to create a culture of transparency.
At the end of the day, employees want to be valued for their contributions. They want their ideas and opinions to be heard. They want to make a difference with their work. Generational differences will disappear when employees get what they want.