Americans are living longer – and working longer. In fact, two percent of the American workforce is older than 72. That means that companies can have as many as five generations working under one roof and in many cases, on the same teams. Given the vast differences between people in their 20’s and people in their 70’s, how should you manage a multigenerational workforce?
Understanding Your Multigenerational Workforce
Five different generations are in the workplace today. They are:
- Silent Generation/Traditionalists – Born before 1946
- Baby Boomers – Born between 1946 – 1964
- Generation X – Born between 1965 – 1980
- Millennials – Born between 1981 – 1998
- Generation Z – Born after 1998
“Experts” love to place stereotypes on each generation. For example, Millennials are often considered to be entitled, flexible-schedule-wanting upstarts who value purpose over financial gain. It is often assumed that Baby Boomers are out of touch and not technologically savvy, that Gen X-ers are cynical and value individual work over teamwork and that Generation Z will be even more “entitled” than Millennials.
However, research shows that these stereotypes are just that – stereotypes, not facts. Recently, the Department of Defense and George Washington University examined more than 20 studies on age disparity in the workplace. What they found was that significant differences between age groups don’t exist. The contrasts we often see at work have more to do with the clashing styles of the old and young than different values.
How to Manage a Multigenerational Workforce
So the stereotypes are wrong, but generational clashes are still common in the workplace. Here are tips you can use to get everyone pulling in the same direction:
- Create multigenerational project teams: Whenever possible, put project teams together that consist of people from different generations. We understand one another when we have the opportunity to get to know people who are different.
- Create a two-way mentoring program: All age groups have opportunities to learn from each other. Create two-way multigenerational mentoring programs with the goal of having each person learn from the other.
- Manage individuals: Don’t assume that all Millennials want constant feedback or that Gen Xers want to be left alone. Talk to your employees about their preferences and manage to the individual, not the generation.