Three Common Multi-Generational Workplace Problems (And How to Solve Them)

    September 22, 2017

    74% of hiring professionals say that the biggest trend shaping the recruitment world right now is the rise of the multi-generational workforce. The first Generation Z workers are entering the workforce, and over 20% of Baby Boomers work past retirement age. With the Gen X crowd and millennials in between, many companies now employ workers from four generations.

    Of course, all of this valuable human capital comes with its share of friction. Managing a multi-generational workforce requires flexible communication, tolerance for different work styles, and respect for different perspectives.

    To help you understand different skills and strategies, here are three top challenges of managing a multi-generational workforce and what you can do to overcome them.


    Multi-generational workforce challenge #1: Negative stereotyping

    Unfortunately, stereotypes abound in the workplace. Do any of these sound familiar?

    • Baby Boomers don’t know how to use modern technology.
    • Gen X workers just want to get ahead.
    • Millennials are entitled.
    • Gen Z workers don’t have any interpersonal skills.

     Maybe you’ve heard your employees express these ideas, or maybe you’ve thought them yourself. The plain truth is: generational stereotypes are not conducive to a pleasant, productive work environment. They’re caused by a lack of understanding of other generations and frequently lead to a lack of respect.

    You can help your employees overcome generational stereotyping by encouraging collaboration between team members of different generations on projects. This grants the opportunity to get to know each other as individuals so they can learn to appreciate each other’s knowledge and skills.


    Multi-generational workforce challenge #2: Different work styles

    There can be a significant divide between how the various generations prefer to work. Baby Boomers are used to putting in long workdays at the office, while Gen Y and Gen Z workers usually prefer flexible hours and remote work. At the same time, mature workers are often happy to take an assignment or project and run with, while younger workers prefer group-based work and daily feedback.

    You might be tempted to make everyone acquire the same habits, but that could backfire. As Shannon Gausepohl points out in her Business News Daily article titled “Tackling 4 Key Challenges of the Multigenerational Workforce,” it’s best to allow employees to work according to their own preferences.

    Individuals are more likely to be motivated to perform well when they have a certain degree of autonomy about how they work. When team members with different work styles need to collaborate on a project, facilitate a meeting to establish a work style that’s acceptable for all involved. Here are some options:

    • Recurrent in-person meetings with an agreed-upon frequency and agenda
    • Using collaboration software such as agile boards, internal messaging systems, or other project management tools
    • Regular intra-team reporting and updates


    Multi-generational workforce challenge #3: Communication problems

    Many companies are adopting enterprise software with messaging systems for managers and their team members. Yet while messaging is a normal method of communication for younger employees, some older workers prefer email or phone calls.

    As a manager, it’s best to communicate with employees using the medium they prefer. When it comes to communications between team members, unless there’s a corporate policy that requires employees to use email or a company messaging system, encourage them to ask each other what their preferred communication method is.

    If your workplace has multiple communication channels, you should put out clear expectations about how each channel should be used. This can prevent your team members from missing important communications or recording them in the wrong place.


    Reaching workers of all generations

    If you keep these pointers in mind, you can help your employees learn to appreciate each other’s strengths and contributions to the team and, by extension, the company. And that goes a long way to creating a workplace where individuals are valued based on professional merit, regardless of what generation they belong to.


    Discover what’s next with Kelly

    Looking for help recruiting across generations and work styles? Contact Kelly.

    We understand today’s employment and workforce trends and we can help your business ditch the script and adapt to the new world of work with staffing, direct-hire, outsourcing and consulting solutions.



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