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Generation Should Factor into Your Workforce Management Strategy

This week in HR, I am looking to age, as it is categorized generationally, and its impact on Talent Management. And I started thinking about my days as a consultant with a large non-profit in Houston. When I was there, I was tasked with teaching and training on items like HR compliance, the Performance Management program, and Ethics. My approach, depending on who sat across from me could often be different, but it was intuitive and responsive, with at least one universal theme: Get them talking…One thing every generation--everybody needs to share their point of view, and you just need to manage the dialogue to a productive point.

Are you struggling to attract, manage, inspire, and retain diverse employees?  Read this blog for tools and brief insights into generational nuances.

I factor inter-generational concerns into Workforce Planning all day long. Starting with your Mission, Vision, and Values, a commitment to inclusion of all employees (respect all and think: every voice matters) is a good first foot forward down the path of pulling the best out of your workers. Diversity is more than Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, gay, lesbian, trans, male/female, religious, secular, et al. Diversity is also about age—old, middle, and young.

Examine what you think about people intergenerationally. If you think all older workers will have trouble with technology for instance, think again. There is a very broad range of tech savviness that would surprise anyone. I worked with an attorney years ago who was in their 80s and was extremely quick with the various technologies we used to analyze data and he was on special teams every time for his speed and accuracy in the technology.

  • Avoid stereotyping. Try to maintain a balance between recognizing that members of each generation have certain tendencies and realizing that people are individuals. For example, some Baby Boomers are tech-savvy while not all millennials are addicted to their smartphones.
  • Balance guidance and self-direction in your training programs. Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation grew up learning mostly from personal interactions rather than media. Gen-Xers and Millennials, to varying degrees, grew up playing computer games, browsing the internet, and learning many tasks on their own. Today’s e-learning platforms provide many options for self-directed learning. While this is valuable, don’t forget that some of your employees prefer live interaction and personal contact.
  • Seek learning tools that bridge the generations. Some tools are appropriate for multiple generations and learning styles. Video training is especially effective in this manner; everyone probably watched instructional movies in school. Videos also allow for more traditional lecture-style learning that’s not very different from a live session.
  • Provide additional training to bring everyone up to speed. Very often, the gap separating people on tech issues is not as wide as it first appears (and this is so important coming from someone like me, at a Human Capital Management Technology company, where we are always trying to relay the importance of driving business through automation). Yet, if your training program simply assumes that everyone has the same background, it’s easy to inadvertently leave some people behind. You can prevent this by providing extra training and peer-to-peer sessions for anyone who needs it. Making it safe to ask questions and to request private tutelage is important. This type of training might include instruction in using certain software, keyboarding skills, and anything else that’s an essential prerequisite to your overall training—different starting points will be important.
  • Encourage intergenerational communication. Each generation has distinctive experiences and skill sets (once again, keeping in mind differences within generations and among individuals). Apart from formal training, encourage people of different generations to work together and share their strengths. You can do this by partnering people together in pairs or groups for learning and work projects. When people work together, they often informally pick up quite a bit from one another. A millennial, for example, might teach a Baby Boomer how to use the latest apps while older employees can share some of the valuable experience they’ve picked up over the years.

If you learn to leverage and appreciate it, people from different generations working together is actually a source of strength for your business. Diversity lets you incorporate the strengths and experiences acquired by people from different generations.

Everybody’s different and as soon as I generalize, contradictions become obvious. Remember that while these arbitrarily ascribed generational categories give us a point of reference, they’re just arbitrary and there are always exceptions to the rule. Each category has idiosyncratic needs to be sure, but there is an art to unifying your workforce through communication and shared values.

 

Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964

Over 70 Million in the US, many are in the latter stage of their employment life-cycle, considering retirement, changing careers, or finding more ways to be leisurely. They value passing on their knowledge to younger workers. Harness this – institutional knowledge is invaluable; don’t underrate it. They shoulder immense financial responsibility for their children and for their parents. They’re fully technologically engaged, although their communication style is dissimilar to Gen Z’s; they might prefer email and face to face over text and chat.

 

Gen X, born 1965 and 1980

Sometimes known as the Silent Generation, Gen X numbers over 65 Million. They’re stable generally speaking, they’ve had steady careers, and they, too, shoulder financial burdens for children and aging parents. But they’re inclined to stay in the office till the job is done and long term. This generation doesn’t have a problem with most software – they came of age using the earliest versions of the personal computer. They’re pop-savvy – think MTV, but also Evening News and daily weather and traffic coverage.

 

Generation Y or Millennials, born 1981 and 1995

72+ Million, most of whom are in the office. Extremely tech savvy. Netflix and streaming TV. Less loyal, and they need employers to provide some meaning for their work. They’ll derive satisfaction from recognition and rewards. Majorly indebted to student loans. They’ll lease rather than own, because that’s what they’ve been trained to do, through the Great Recession. But they’re creative and risk tolerant, having been shaped by 9/11 and the Great Recession, Wars, and Terrorism.

 

Gen Z, born between 1996 and 2012

Everything is mobile (phone, life, loyalty) for these 68 Million, many of whom are working, researching, making decisions with impact. They want autonomy, validation, security, and they demand a high Corporate Social Responsibility score. They want stability, too. They’re keenly aware of the widening gap between things they can control and the market – think inflation and stock market turbulence. There’s a level of nihilism that they face, so they’re in a rush to accomplish things. Since their lives are virtual, they want to work for companies that have strong virtual presence and they want feedback and growth opportunities.

Leading with your values is the best foot forward you can make. If you have a question about how to create your employer value proposition, let us help. CrescentHR is more than your practical support, we are your tactical strategy for engaging and leveraging your workforce.

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