For the first time, there are now five generations in the American workforce. Having so many generations represented in the labor force presents quite the challenge for employers and HR professionals: How do you effectively manage a workforce with a 50 to 60 year potential age gap between your youngest and most senior employees?
Understanding generational characteristics
While not every person will necessarily fit in with the characteristics of their particular generation, understanding the general traits and motivations associated with each generation will go a long way to helping employers design a management strategy that works. Below are snapshots of each generation, capturing the characteristics shared by many of the people born during those time periods. (For a more in-depth look at each generation, check out our infographic: Defining the Multigenerational Workforce)
Striking the right balance
When considering generational differences, it’s important not to dwell on them, according to Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School and coauthor of Managing the Older Worker. In an interview with the Harvard Business Review last year, Cappelli notes that while there are plenty of stereotypes about each generation, a good manager will help his team move beyond those labels to focus on the task at hand.
While employers should certainly endeavor to understand the unique needs of each of his employees, it’s important not to focus on them or expect every employee of a particular age to be subject to them; otherwise you’re just reinforcing those stereotypes.
Strategies for managing a multigenerational workforce
Does your organization have a strategy for managing the needs and expectations of employees across multiple generations? Let us know your tips for managing a multigenerational workforce in the comments below!
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