How to Manage an Inter-Generational Workforce

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Conflicting inter-generational differences in the workplace are becoming increasingly problematic for organizations.

Generation-wise, today’s workforce can be divided into four groups: Baby Boom (born 1946–1964), Generation X (born 1965–1980), Millennial (born 1981-1996), and Post-Millennial or Generation Z (born after 1997). Because senior workers are waiting longer to retire (according to Statistics Canada, more than 20 per cent of the workforce is over 55) the personnel of a typical organization can span all four generations.

Since the end of the Second World War, an accelerated pace of technological and societal change has increased the disparity between generational groups, who each came of age under vastly different social conditions and influences.

Different generational attitudes, values and workplace behaviours are such a cause for friction that consulting firms exist that will specifically address the issue. The divisions are affecting the ability of companies to recruit, retain and manage workers. Poor communication and low morale mean high turnover rates and disagreeable working conditions.

Valuing the different perspectives and skills each generation brings to the table can reduce the strife. When management and senior leadership encourage different perspectives and open communication, different generations can appreciate the life events, socio-economic influences and values that make each other unique.

Boomers, for instance, tend to be more idealistic. They place greater importance on team effort, loyalty, social status, respect for hierarchy and process, and career advancement. They are more likely to see stress and sacrifice as part of the job.

Later generations have a “free agent” approach to their careers, and value autonomy and independence. They admire innovation and result-oriented action, even if it breaks with traditional approaches. They look for personal meaning in their jobs, and place greater priority on work-life balance.

Unsurprisingly, the Millennial and Generation Z groups have more casual attitudes towards technology and are more adaptive. They look for variety, flexibility and new challenges in the workplace.

Effective managing of working relationships and individual coaching will bring out the best in workers from divergent backgrounds. Communication skills, respect and consistency, acknowledgement and validation will be the hallmarks of organizational management and leadership for the inter-generational workforce.

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The topic of this article is covered in the curriculum for the SEEC’s Masters Certificate in Project Management (starting Sept. 12, 2019). The program is designed to help consolidate and certify a worker’s project management skills and add greater value to all their projects.

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