Managing a Multigenerational Workforce

Written by Stephanie Kaselis

July 18, 2018

Managing a Multigenerational Workforce

For the first time in history, today’s complex workforce is made up of five distinct generations working alongside one another. Their diverse perspectives, attitudes, and motivations have changed the workplace dynamic, creating the need for leaders to evolve their multigenerational workforce management strategies.

In our recently released 2017 State of Workforce Management, we revealed key trends in the Health and Human Services industry. After surveying over 400 executives, we found that all five generations are represented within the Health and Human Services, and that 72% of executives believe that their workplace has evolved as a result of multiple generations working together.

To overcome the challenges of managing such diversity, industry leaders must understand the different characteristics associated with each generation. Below are tips on how to manage a multigenerational workforce.

Traits: Understanding who they are.
To successfully manage a multigenerational workforce, one must grasp the distinct characteristics that each generation assumes. These traits are not only what distinguishes one generation from the next, but define their strengths and weaknesses within their position.

The Silent Generation, or Traditionalists          (1927 – 1945)

Baby-Boomers                                                        (1946 – 1964)

Generation X                                                            (1965 – 1976)

Generation Y, or Millennials                                 (1977 – 1995)

Generation Z, or iGen                                            (1996 – 2014)

*Date ranges may vary depending on source.

The Silent Generation represents the oldest generation in today’s workplace. With roughly 50 years of experience, they can be considered “perfect mentors” for younger generations entering the workforce. Baby Boomers, who famously coined the term “workaholics” due to their commitment to their companies and their desire to provide for their families are considered the most company-loyal. Generation X is known as the independent generation, working hard for themselves and were the first to rethink company loyalty. They are eager to switch companies if they feel there is no room to grow. Generation Y, or millennials, aren’t impressed with job titles or status. Instead, they prefer a job that will treat them fairly and offer them a great work-life balance. Generation Z is still up for debate, as they range from the ages of 3-21. The oldest of the generation are just starting their search for full time positions. Since they grew up with iPhones and iPads, they are the most tech savvy generation to date.

Expectations: Understanding what they want.
Communication is key to successfully managing any workforce. When an employee is clear on what is expected of them and what they expect in return, overall productivity will be greater and communication will be stronger. Each generation has a different expectation of how to communicate.

Those in the Silent Generation believe respect is earned through years of experience and believe in hierarchy and formal memos as means of communication. Baby Boomers aren’t as tech savvy as their successors and prefer to communicate face-to-face. Generation X prefers to communicate in a direct manner and will ask for feedback. Generation Y communicate\ primarily through email and voicemail. They prefer feedback more frequently than any other generation and expect to be given meaningful work. Lastly, Generation Z prefers virtual communication and expect freedom and trust in the workplace. 

Motivations: Understanding what drives them.
Keeping employees driven is something that many executives struggle with and as newer generations are entering the workforce, a one-size-fits-all does not apply when it comes to motivation.

Given their age, the Silent Generation are incentivized by 401K-matching and health benefits, while Baby Boomer are motivated by pay raises or monetary bonuses. Because Generation X is very independent, they are incentivized by individual recognition and promotions. Generation Y, or Millennials, can be motivated by perks and benefits such as unlimited or increased PTO and a more casual dress code. Finally, as Generation Z begins entering the workforce, this generation is incentivized by opportunity and trust from employers.

Successfully managing a multigenerational workforce is not second nature for any leader. It takes a thorough understanding of each generation and their respective traits, expectations, and motivations.

This DATIS Blog was written by Stephanie Kaselis, DATIS, on October 5th, 2017 and may not be re-posted without permission.