How to Manage the Multigenerational Workplace
Posted on March 3, 2014
Employees across four different generations are making valuable contributions in today’s business world, but each generation comes to work with a different set of preferences for learning and coaching. Because receiving feedback and seeing a path to career growth are key factors in determining employee satisfaction, it’s imperative that HR professionals know how to navigate the needs of their employees regardless of their age.
In a recent webinar with Paycor, noted HR expert and consultant Leigh Branham broke down the differences among the generations and explained how they affect management dynamics.
Feedback and coaching
As times have changed, so has the way employees wish to have their performance reviewed. For traditionalists—those workers born before 1946—no news is seen as good news. They tend not to expect feedback so long as things are going well.
Baby Boomers, meanwhile, expect to get feedback via a formal review once a year, with lots of documentation. As a result, Baby Boomer managers tend to withhold feedback because they didn’t receive much during the formative years of their careers.
That can be tricky as Boomers manage reports from younger generations—Generation X and the Millennials—who need a much greater level of feedback on their performance.
Gen X workers are hungry to know where they stand, and they periodically will seek out their managers to ask with an approach that might be described as, “Sorry to interrupt, but how am I doing?” With Millennials, the bar is far higher. Nine of 10 of these newer members of the workforce expect feedback once a day.
Because of these generational differences in styles, it’s important to have clear policies and procedures in place on a corporate level so all employees understand what is expected of them and how and when they will be judged. Job descriptions and performance review forms and practices should be standardized, and HR leaders must proactively coach managers to help them adapt to their direct reports’ various preferences.
Career development and learning
The generation gap is also evident in how today’s workforce thinks about professional development and continuing education. The ability to see a career path into the future is a key indicator of whether an employee will stay with an organization or seek more opportunity elsewhere.
Traditionalists tend not to prioritize formalized training to learn new skills or job roles. Thus, they might not be quick to offer such training to direct reports. Traditional thinking is, “I learned the hard way, and so will you.”
The Boomers’ thought process is very different but also can lead to a lack of training for their employees. The Boomer generation was raised to believe in lifetime employment with one organization; thus, they see training less experienced colleagues as potentially risky—train them too much, and they’ll leave.
That’s in direct opposition to Generation Xers, who have been shown to stay longer in roles where they have more chances to learn.
For Millennials, continuous learning is a way of life. Having grown up during uncertain financial times, they’ve seen how economic downturns affect workers. Instead of looking for lifetime employment, they’re looking for lifetime employability. Changing jobs is their expectation, so they’re most satisfied when they can improve their résumés and stay marketable.
Want to learn more? View a recording of Leigh’s recent webinar.
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