The modern workforce is highly multigenerational. As a result, different age groups have different expectations from their employers. To avoid friction and plant collaboration between complex teams, employers need to strategize effective management and employee engagement, and set performance criteria and hierarchies for cultivating a productive environment.  

A multigenerational workforce comprises five working generations:

  • Traditionalists – born on or before 1945 – Known as builders, matures, depression babies, radio Babies, GI Joe generation, and “the greatest generation”. Employees from this age group are disciplined and have a soldier mentality. 
  • Baby Boomers – born between 1946 and 1964 – They are team-oriented individuals, who believe in sacrifice for success – collaborations may become a little easier while working with them. 
  • Generation X – born between 1965 and 1976 – The age group that has witnessed the dot-com boom. They are also referred to as the latchkey generation as their parents left them home alone quite often. This is why they have an independent nature. 
  • Millennials – born between 1977 and 1995 – One of the most significant generations of the current workforce due to their technology-savvy interests. As a result, organizations can leverage this age group to adopt new technologies and advanced workflows rapidly.  
  • Generation Z – born on or after 1996 – Tech-savvy and highly motivated to achieve higher goals, where organizations can excel with such an outlook. 

While a multigenerational workforce has always existed, the recent influx of technology-savvy Millennials and Gen Z demands older generations reinvent their workflows, and adopt new practices to keep up. 

However, modern organizational changes and innovations in collaborative tools are blurring the gap between different age groups. According to Deloite’s 2020 survey, expectations for work-life flexibility, loyalty expectations, and career advancement among generations will be reduced by almost 10 per cent in the next three years, as displayed in Figure 1 below. 

Despite these organizational changes and innovations, there is need for even more refinement to communicate productivity goals to workforces, and see different age groups work at the same productivity level. 

Top benefits of multigenerational workforce management

Leveraging multigenerational workforce management can help: 

  • Leverage different skill sets with multiple approaches towards business operations
  • Improve the problem-solving capabilities for each generation of the workforce through cross-generational training
  • Create mentoring opportunities and internal promotion, allowing higher employee retention and a reduction in employee turnover
  • Enhance productivity with the specific assignment of tasks as per multigenerational employee characteristics

Strategies to manage a multigenerational workforce

There are many different practical solutions to multigenerational workforce issues. Each solution is specific to organizational structure, processes, workforce characteristics, among others. Here, we present a few solutions and strategies to best manage a multigenerational workforce:

1. Create shared workspaces

With the onset of a pandemic, organizations needed to adapt their workspace culture with remote working capabilities. An IBM 2020 survey on business value suggests that remote work will be a permanent fixture of any workspace in the future through a hybrid model; merging remote work with on-site operations, creating an ecosystem of seamless collaborations. 

This approach enables remote employees to work in sync with their physical workspace counterparts. This is especially essential when more employees are drawn towards remote work. 

For example, only one-third of Canadians working remotely expect to work consistently from the office, compared to pre-pandemic times. Canadian technology giants like Shopify and Open Text Corp have already announced having permanent remote work options. 

2. Use collaborative technologies

One of the most significant challenges in implementing the hybrid workplace, is adopting collaborative tools that help in seamless interactions and project management. 

Collaborative tools that you can use for your organization are: 

  1. Explain Everything: a cloud-based software that helps in real-time visual collaborations 
  2. Conceptboard: an infinite canvas that acts as a centralized hub 
  3. Ganttic: a resource planning software that allows you to manage tasks, allocations, and projects through Gantt charts 
  4. Orangescrum: another project and task management tool, with an agile methodology at its core, which helps in project planning, task group tracking, status reporting, priority settings, and invoice management
  5. Trello: a collaborative tool that enables multiple teams to work on the same project through different Trello boards, as well as file sharing and comments for communication between team members

2. Leverage remote management

One of the best ways to improve productivity and manage remote employees is leveraging a practical approach like the 5-15 methodology. Also referred to as the “read in five minutes, written in fifteen minutes,” the report allows employees to seamlessly inform managers about challenges, accomplishments, and lessons learned. 

For example, Condé Nast International, a subsidiary of Vogue International, uses the 5-15 methodology. According to the head of Condé Nast International, Sarah Marshall, “As a manager I find it absolutely invaluable, because it highlights things I might have missed. 

3. Create effective feedback management

Feedback management is essential when you are dealing with a multigenerational workforce. According to David Hussell, CEO of 15five.com, “Not getting feedback in today’s [fast-paced, high-flux, and] notification-filled world is like driving those three blocks blindfolded. This is what infrequent performance reviews are essentially doing.

Generation Z employees expect a review or feedback every week, which makes feedback management essential. There are two practical ways to effectively manage feedback, which include: one-on-ones, or leveraging analytic software.

4. Enhance employee training

Cross-generation training merges cross-training, and up-skilling. It is a strategy of creating a multigenerational training program with the distribution of mentoring and reporting activities. Here, organizations can leverage the individual characteristics of each generation for the distribution of tasks during the training program. 

For example, you can assign networking roles to baby boomers in your organization and, at the same time, give reporting to Generation X. Similarly, if you are to introduce a new collaborative technology or even a WEM software, Millennials can likely learn faster and help in training others.

Conclusion

The multigenerational workforce is here to stay, and shying away from the issues will hurt your organization. Instead, the best way to handle multigenerational employee expectations and gaps is by formulating a strategy specific to your organizational needs.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
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Hardik Shah is a Tech Consultant at Simform - a firm that provides custom software development services. He leads large-scale mobility programs covering platforms, solutions, governance, standardization, and best practices.