Intelligent management can result in high hopes for the intergenerational workforce.
Todays’ workplace is vastly different from anything we have experienced before. In previous years, employees had to fit in and adapt to the needs of the organisation if they had any hope of making it through their probationary period.
Today the organisation needs to adapt to the attitude and needs of their employees if they want to retain them.
Each time a new generation enters the workforce, so do their values, their strengths and also their weaknesses. It is important to remember that, while their personality traits and behaviours may be similar, their priorities are not. In order to effectively manage each generation, we need to understand who they are, what they expect from the organisation, and what drives them.
How Millennials communicate
Generation Y, or Millennials, as you have probably come to know them, are easily one of the most researched generations to date. Often unfairly pigeonholed as lazy or disrespectful, their work characteristics stem from the helicopter parenting style of their caregivers, their life experiences and the relationships which they have built with their peers over the years.
If you want to keep your Millennial employees happy at the office, grant them flexibility in working hours and work space, positive encouragement, regular feedback and a degree of mentoring.
Working alongside these employees is not quite as challenging as you may think. You just need to understand what drives them and then manage their expectations from there.
Interpersonal skills have deteriorated dramatically over the years, due to things like instant messaging, but they can be salvaged with good mentorship and soft skills training.
Challenges for employers
Managing an intergenerational workforce can be somewhat challenging, particularly when it comes to integrating the newest generation into the organisation. However, a diverse workforce is a huge competitive advantage, and one that should be recognised and cultivated.
Managers often complain about Millennials and their lack of commitment, their sense of entitlement, their laziness, their disregard for loyalty and their almost non-existent communication skills. While these are valid observations, it’s important to leave room for the possibility that Millennials are simply misunderstood. Instead of deliberately being disrespectful, perhaps they are only asking questions because they want to understand how everything works within the organisation, rather than being lazy, maybe their extensive experience with technology has just given them an edge to get things done faster, and so forth. So, rather than judge them too harshly, too quickly, it is important that employers take the time out to get to know their employees, despite any pre-conceived notions that they may have.
Managing intergenerational communication
Though it may seem somewhat daunting, intergenerational workforces are a reality, whether we like them or not. In order to create an age-neutral workplace, we need to build awareness about generational differences and tap into the knowledge of others. And if we can somehow have fun while all of this is happening, it will serve as a huge motivator for new starters and it will encourage employees, young and old, to join in and get to know one another.
The time (or era) in which someone was born has a huge effect on the way in which they view the world and what they put out there. Each generation is different, but understanding these differences is what brings us closer and allows us to feed off each other’s strengths.
Arno Kemp is the People Executive at e-learning design and development company, The Training Room Online, www.thetrainingroomonline.com.
This article appeared in the June 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.