Talent Management in the Multi-Generational Workplace

Feature , Talent — By on August 3, 2010

Take a moment to think about the people you work with or supervise. How diverse is your workplace – not just in terms of ethnicity or sex, but in age? Do you mostly work with people who are your age, younger than you, or older than you? These days, it’s common to see a very age-diverse workplace, with four different generations working side-by-side – members of the World War II generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials.

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A multigenerational team offers a number of benefits to your company because of the wide ranges of experience, knowledge, and perspectives. On the other hand, managing a team of employees who represent such a diverse swath of experience can also have its challenges. How can you and your company effectively manage the diverse talents of your multi-generational team, maximizing communication, productivity, and respect in order to achieve success? Take a moment to think about your team and how it functions to help develop your strategy for effective talent management.

How Well Do We Work Together?
Spend some time thinking about and observing your team members. How well do older and younger employees seem to work together? Are there differences in communication style, how they work, and how they develop solutions? Evaluate the team’s strengths and weaknesses first of all, and then consider whether generational differences may play into those.

Where Do the Leaders Fit?
Where do you fit in the multi-generational workplace? Of course, you can identify yourself by your generation, but also consider: do you work better with older employees, younger employees, or your own age cohort? You can also expand this to the leadership team as a whole to think about how you, as managers, interact with your employees. Do you have your own challenges in communicating with and leading employees outside of your own generational cohort?

Harnessing Diversity
One of the benefits of a multi-generational workforce is that you have a broad talent base that you can use to your benefit. If you can develop an effective team that works well together because they understand each others’ knowledge and skills, your employees can capitalize on that by using each other as resources. Think about it this way: if your Millennials can communicate effectively and win the respect of the World War II generation and Baby Boomers – in effect, the people who are the ages of their parents and grandparents – and vice versa, then your employees can also communicate effectively and win the respect of clients of all ages.

Understand the Differences, But Don’t Stereotype
The AARP offers some thoughts on the traits, communication styles, and perspectives of the four generations in today’s workforce. Click here to download the PDF

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Understanding these differences can be helpful as you lead your team in working together to achieve success. At the same time, remember that these are simply tendencies – there are no hard and fast rules about how any employee approaches their work simply based on their age.

No matter what their age, all employees want to feel that they are heard, that they are respected, and that their contributions matter.  Perhaps the best advice for talent management in the multi-generational remains much as it has always been: take the time to understand your employees’ needs, strengths, and capabilities – and help them understand each other, as well.

If generational differences seem to be a challenge for your team, rather than an asset, set aside some time to get everyone talking to each other. Addressing generational differences head on by making employees aware of them can sometimes be a good first step to helping your multigenerational workforce work well together.

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