Challenges of a Multi-Generational Workforce - Southwest EAP
employee assistance programs

Challenges of a Multi-Generational Workforce

Human resource departments and team managers face myriad challenges when it comes to the management of multiple generations in the workplace. A typical large organization with hundreds of employees is likely to have at least five distinct generations working in various departments. Each generation has unique communication styles, expectations, preferences and perspectives which is why it’s so important to understand how to manage the diverse group of employees working for your company.

According to Rawn Shah, a contributor on Forbes, managing a multi-generational workforce is one of the most common strategy-based concerns employers face. Effectively managing employees helps increase their productivity and engagement, which in turn aids in reducing business costs. Employee assistance programs like Southwest EAP can also help managers and HR better understand this kind of workforce.

Identify and Know Your Generations

First, it’s important to identify the various generations working for your company. You’ll find many different definitions of these generational breakdowns, but we’ve selected the most common one:

  • Silent Traditionalists – 1925–1945
  • Baby Boomers – 1946–1964
  • Generation X – 1965–1982
  • Millennials – 1983–1999
  • Generation Z – 2000 later

The expectations of each generation are unique because they grew up in different environments and contexts. For example, Baby Boomers usually have liberal fiscal tendencies while Silent Traditionalists are fiscally conservative. Although each generation has an exception, of course, knowing the general experience framework of your employees can help you comprehend their reference point.

Communication Styles

Over the last seven decades, technology has advanced exponentially, and nowhere is it more evident than when you look at how various generations communicate. The Silent Traditionalists prefer face-to-face communication or conversations via telephone. Similarly, Generation X and Baby Boomer employees highly value personal interactions. However, they are more flexible than their earlier generation counterparts and welcome email, instant message and texting.

Baby Boomers put more focus on group interactions. They prefer meeting in conference rooms to doing webinars or holding conference calls. Although they are willing to give other options a try, they lean on the side of in-person interactions. The ability to get down to work and engage in individual interactions is the focus of Generation X employees. They need extra psychological and physical space to get their work done.

Technology is the foundation of communication for Generation Z and Millennials. They appreciate the ease and efficiency of communication. It’s important, however, to set clear expectations of when you have to engage in face-to-face interactions and when to make use of technology.

Create a Conducive Workplace Environment

Misunderstanding is a common challenge when it comes to managing a diverse group of employees because every generation is unique. Baby Boomers and Silent Traditionalists are more deferential to authority and tend to be loyal to their employers.

However, Gen X, Gen Z and Millennials prefer work quality to taking orders. Their positions within the company and spending years working for the same employer isn’t attractive to them. They want to be judged based on their work outcomes, not working hours. Conflicts and misunderstandings can arise in your work culture if you don’t understand and accommodate these generational differences.

Provide Incentives to Each Generation

Different generations prefer different rewards or incentives. Find out what rewards will suit the different generations in your workforce. For instance, you can offer pensions to the Silent Traditionalists, awards to Baby Boomers, gift cards to Gen X, career training and development to the Millennials, and a tech-based solution to your Gen Z employees.

When you understand your employees with respect to their generations, they end up feeling valued and motivated to work even harder.