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Leading teams of people from five generations presents a unique challenge! This lesson will help you learn how to manage different generations in the workplace.

Importance of Generations

You were recently promoted to manager in a top sales and marketing company. However, your boss tells you that you can’t actually begin managing until you attend a training on managing different generations in the workplace.

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A bit annoyed and confused you ask your boss why you have to attend a training on such a subject. You know that people of all ages behave differently, its fine. Your boss kindly smiles at you and explains that generations are more than an ‘age difference’. He goes on to tell you that you are correct; generations indicate the different periods of time in which people are born. Even more so, each generation has their own unique strengths and behaviors, related to the culture or customs that were relevant during their childhood.

With more than five generations working in your company, your boss goes on to tell you that it is important to learn the differences in generations, and gain valuable tools in managing through those differences, in order to be effective in your position as manager. At this training, you can get valuable tips and ideas on how to work with the various generations.

Managing Different Generations

Following this conversation, you reluctantly agree. After all, you really want this promotion. When you get to the training the woman at the check-in counter and the honorary speaker, Katie, tells you that she is excited to see managers supporting this program.

It is extremely important. She further tells you that ‘trainings’ such as these, are the ‘first’ step to effectively managing different generations in the workplace.

Know the Generations

Katie begins the training by asking if everyone knows what a generation is.

People quickly respond, saying ‘the different time periods people were born in’. As she discusses what this time difference is she asks how many people are familiar with the baby boomers.Hands fly in the air.

Katie explains that most people recognize the terms of big generations such as the boomers or millennials, however, what they don’t pay attention to are the similarities between the generations.The screen in front of you flashes to a picture depicting the different generations in the workplace today.

Generations in the workplace
Focus on Strengths

It is true, there may be differences, but you can’t focus on them. If you spend all of your time thinking about the traditionalists who wear a suit and tie, or the Generation Zers who text you that they have arrived instead of saying hello, you won’t be effective.

Instead of focusing on the differences, focus on each person’s unique qualities that contribute to the work environment. Ask yourself, what strengths does each person have to offer one another? Traditionalists may be extremely skilled at some specific tasks and the Generation Zers may be fantastic when it comes to working with technology.

Develop Multi-Generational Teams

This leads into the next point. Instead of separating the generations, pair them together. The older generations have a lot of knowledge they can contribute and the younger generations can learn from them.

As for the skilled and technology differences, you can have the traditionalists teach the Zers all about the work. The Zers can then translate this into programs, write reports, and post the information online. Zers and other young generations can also help the older generations to learn how to use the technology.

  • They work together
  • Help one another
  • Share knowledge

Creating multi-generational teams can help your company develop a strong collaborative culture and get the most out what each team member has to offer.

Create Flexible Rewards

Not all employees like the same things, regardless of generation. Some employees may be family focused, others want to travel, and others want a great 401K.

When you create the benefits for your employees find ways to make it as flexible as possible.

  • Can you offer different packages?
  • Can you let them select their own benefits?

This may not be in your power as manager, but you can discuss it with the person who does have power.

For the Young Manager

Katie gives one last tip. If you are a young manager and you will lead employees older than you, find ways to connect with them. Ask them to teach you what they know. Find out what they value in a leader. Running the place as if it is ‘yours’ when your staff may have worked for the company for 30 years will only destroy any authority you might have.

Lesson Summary

Katie wraps up the day by bulleting all of the information she has covered during the training. She describes the importance of learning how to manage different generations. There are several things you can do to make sure that you can adequately lead the various age groups, both older and younger than you.

  • Go to a training
  • Understand the differences, but don’t emphasize them
  • Find value and strength in the differences
  • Create multi-generational teams
  • Look for opportunities to be flexible with employee benefits

Different generations certainly are challenging in the workplace, but if you can find ways to make each one feel like they are valued, you can be very successful at leading them!

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