Managers are increasingly grappling with generational differences in their work forces. Problems can arise from differing communication styles of workers born in different eras. The frictions may be aggravated by new technology and work patterns that mix workers of different ages in ever-changing teams.
Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are competitive and think workers should pay their dues. Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1977, are more likely to be skeptical and independent-minded. Gen Ys — also known as Millennials — were born in 1978 or later and like teamwork, feedback and technology.Here are some strategies to help mesh these different perspectives:
- Send your managers to class so they can learn to recognize generational differences and adapt. It’s important that managers change rather than trying to change the staff.
- Facilitate mentoring between different aged employees to encourage more cross-generational interaction. Younger employees should learn to seek the experience and wisdom offered by senior employees. Older employees should learn to be open to the fresh perspectives offered by younger employees.
- Accommodate different learning styles. Baby Boomers may favor more traditional and static training methods like Power Point presentations and handbooks, while younger workers may gravitate toward more interactive, technology-based forms of learning.
- Don’t apply a blanket communication-method policy. Boomers may prefer to communicate by phone or in person. Millennials grew up being in constant communication with peers and co-workers so are accustomed to emailing, texting or sending instant messages.
The key is to be able to effectively address and take advantage of the differences in values and expectations of each generation. Be careful not to follow blanket stereotypes. In the end, people are people and will respond positively to your management efforts as long as they are sincere.
Dan Monaghan is the director of Training at the Manufacturer & Business Association. For more information about the Association’s professional development training programs, please visit www.mbausa.org.