How To Manage A Multigenerational Workforce
For years, business experts have been warning leaders to prepare for the workforce’s diversification. While diversity has a way to go in some industries, on one front the modern American workforce is the most diverse in history: For the first time, there are now five different generations in our workplaces, presenting business leaders both a unique challenge and an opportunity.
From Gen Z to the Silent Generation, workers today were largely born across 80 years—and a lot has happened during that time! The oldest workers may have lived through the Great Depression and World War II, while some of the newest entrants to the workforce weren’t even alive on Sept. 11, 2001. In that span of time, the world and the nation have seen massive innovation in technology, evolving understanding of diversity and equality, and changing expectations about what work really means.
So, what does that all mean for employers?
As we ease into 2024, now is the time to lean into strategy when it comes to managing a multigenerational workforce. Without a clear understanding of who your workers are, what they want and how well you’re meeting (or not meeting) those needs, your retention rates could suffer in the years to come and your position as an employer of choice may not be as strong as you’d like. Here are five areas to focus on to maximize the tremendous opportunity that comes with having a multigenerational workforce:
Look to the data:
If you don’t know exactly who you’re employing, you won’t know how to help them. That means leaders need to rely on their people data to uncover what proportions of their workforce are in each generation. Are they predominantly employing Gen Z and millennials? Or do they have a mix across generations? That information can help inform strategy as employers seek to diversify their workforce and ensure equity in hiring, promotions, pay raises and more.
One of the key elements of successfully managing a multigenerational workforce is that leadership needs to give workers a voice. Employees who are 18 and employees who are 80 have vastly different experiences, and that may color what they are looking for in terms of employee experience, benefits, where and how they’re working, and much more. From pulse surveys to town halls, leaders should actively engage across generations to understand the needs.
Listening to employees is one thing. Taking action based on that feedback is even more critical. This can be complex, as creating policies and building a unified culture for a multigenerational workforce may mean a fair amount of compromises. However, if employees understand that their perspectives are being considered, employers will be better positioned when it comes to engagement and retention.
Having a multigenerational workforce with differing expectations means that leadership may need to be less rigid than they have in the past. For instance, employees across age groups may feel differently about the value of working on-site versus remote—and organizations that can be flexible on their position, such as by offering hybrid options or flexible hours, stand a better chance at appealing to different generations of workers.
Strive to be on the leading edge:
Managing a multigenerational workforce as diverse as today’s—especially amid the ongoing and rapid transformations many employers are facing—is new to many business leaders. That presents an opportunity for employers to take a stand and commit to creating an empowering and inclusive environment for all types of workers. By leading on this issue today, employers can ensure that their workforce of tomorrow is equipped with the right skills, mindset, and investment in the organization to power the business into the future.
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