Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce? Not a Problem.

The key to managing talented Millennials (and other sectors of a diverse workforce), is to identify leaders with the right temperament and capabilities.

If you’re managing a multi-generational workforce, congratulations. Your organization is probably diverse in other ways as well (gender, ethnicity, culture, geography) which makes it more likely to be innovative, agile, entrepreneurial, and performance-oriented. The talent and skills base of your workforce is broad-ranging, and knowledge transfer flows in all directions, a natural byproduct of the daily dialogue among team members. The more “multi” your workforce, the more it mirrors today’s segmented consumer marketplace, giving your company a competitive edge. 
 
If you’re managing a multi-generational workforce, sympathies. You have to tailor motivational techniques and learning opportunities on a more individual level, and establish a culture that accommodates a variety of workstyle preferences. Your career conversations can run the gamut, within a work day, from employees ready to slow down to those who want to move laterally, move up, or move on—and you have to be prepared for each one. The more “multi” your workforce, the more demands are placed on your people skills, adaptability, empathy, and resilience—but the greater the potential rewards (see paragraph above.)
 
The point is, the presence of category-based differences within a workforce—from age to gender to ethnicity to physical ability—is the sign of a healthy organization. We know, for example, that companies with the most female officers have 34% higher returns. And diversity is a magnet for young talent: in a 2014 Glassdoor survey, two-thirds of respondents said a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.
 
The question about generational management issues comes up most often these days when discussing Millennials. Are there differences in attracting, motivating, and retaining this sector of the workforce, compared to others? Sure, but these are often misunderstood or cast as negatives. For example, research shows Millennials prioritize three things when choosing a job—money, security, and time off—and nearly three-quarters report working more than 40 hours a week. Yet because they view job security through the lens of personal career advancement and prefer flexible working arrangements, they are often miscast as self-absorbed slackers.    
 
Problems occur when managers fall back on stereotypical ideas of what Millennials or Boomers or Gen Xers or FILL IN THE BLANK “are like” and treat differences as problems rather than powerful, complementary forces that can be harnessed to invigorate the corporate culture and drive organizational performance.  
 
Managing in a multi-workforce is a complex undertaking but one that represents the future. By 2050, there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the United States—diversity will be the norm. It is imperative now to invest time and resources into identifying and nurturing leaders who have the temperament and capabilities to navigate our multi-dimensional world and workplaces. Going forward, successful companies will be those recognizing that talent—in all its diversity—is the most potent competitive differentiator. And they will be led by individuals with the intellectual curiosity to appreciate different worldviews, the adaptability to manage through uncertainty, and the vision and stamina to champion a collaborative and inclusive workplace culture geared to get the best out of every individual. 
 
Related Articles: 
To Motivate Millennials, Go High-Touch for the High-Tech Crowd
Millennials: A Generation of Natural Leaders?
Five Keys to Attracting and Retaining High-Potential Millennial Talent

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