Fred put his beer down on the bar and leaned closer to Maria ‘the thing is’ he whispered ‘I don’t get the younger generation. I don’t understand their work ethic and I don’t know how to manage my team who are all either Gen X or Millennials…. What happened to my generation, who had a strong work ethic, stayed in a job till they retired and did as they were told?’
The Baby Boomer Generation are exiting the workforce, making management of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976) and Millennials (born between 1977 and 1997) a paramount concern for organisations. Generation X are highly distrustful of large organisations and extremely malleable to change, as a generalisation. Their most favourably rated job qualities include freedom, flexibility at work, and work-life balance. Furthermore, they are highly likely to make lateral career moves; therefore, any industry would have to consider strong training and development offerings in order to maintain Generation X in their workforce.
Governments view this demographic with concern as they grapple with skills shortages in certain industries and attracting younger workforces to these trades.
Millennials are the first generation to grow up entirely in the digital age. With their understanding of technology, connectedness and globalisation, Millennials have never experienced a non-connected workplace or an office that closes at 5pm, and are more likely to stay in a role that offers virtual global connectivity and opportunities. They seek new management styles, freedom to work in a flexible manner and even the ability to work on their personal projects.
When managing a team of multi-generational workers, a manager needs to understand the different generations, the era in which they have been born and their outlook on the world.
Fred needs to look at his Gen X workers and ensure their roles have enough change and development to hold their interest. He could look at flexibility initiatives to allow them more autonomy, and to facilitate their work/life balance. Many of these workers will be working parents and do not want to repeat the mistakes of the previous generation particularly for men, who gave up family time in order to be the major breadwinner in the household. Most households today are double income and many men want to be around for their children’s upbringing and many women want the flexibility to be able to work and be a parent. Keeping the Gen X workers happy also means providing them with development opportunities to ensure that their career progresses. This generation will not stay in a role till retirement. They may not stay till next week, if you do not engage and develop them.
Young millennials do not understand the whole 9 am to 5 pm theory. They wonder why they have to stick to time frames as long as the work is completed. They want to work wherever, and see the world as a global village. Much like past generations may travel into the outback for adventure, these workers will travel globally and often digitally. Cross cultural boundaries mean nothing as people in one country work for organisations in another. The old management style based on command and control will just not work with these great assets. They are looking for freedom and technical advancement. Managers need to review workers not based on hours at their desk, but output and quality of work, no matter where it derives from.
Every generation feel the next is not as good, but in reality the next generation is always better – more educated, healthier and wealthier – they just need to be managed differently.
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