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Retention + Mobility

Talent Management In A Multi-generational Workplace

By Caitlin Leishman on November, 6 2017
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Caitlin Leishman

One of the most common challenges leaders face in today’s workplace is managing many generations in an organization.


From baby boomers to millennials, there are substantial differences in attitude, communication style, feedback requirements, adaptation to change, technical skills, and more.

In order to effectively manage multiple generations, it’s important to understand these differences, as well as understand where there are similarities. For instance, we all want and require feedback, and we all shy away from vague performance descriptors.

Most of the problems surrounding multi-generational workplaces involve a shift in management where you will often find someone younger managing someone older. This can lead to tension, decreased engagement, and ultimately decreased productivity.

So what can today’s leaders do to ensure different generations are able to work together and achieve success individually and collectively?

Try not to dwell on the differences between generations. While there are many stereotypes that hold a grain of truth, such as the smartphone addicted millennial, there isn’t any evidence that these stereotypes carry over negatively into the workplace.

Building collaborative relationships with those different from you in age is extremely beneficial, both for younger employees managing older employees and vice versa. This ‘cross-generational’ mentoring is especially beneficial on projects involving technology. Think in terms of complementary skills and varying perspectives that can balance each other out, prompt innovation, and lead to more effective problem-solving.

Let newer professionals take the lead on some projects, but stress the importance of taking advice and forming partnerships with older, possibly more experienced employees. This is a great way to integrate new employees, ease tension, and build a strong line of leadership succession.

It’s important to be able to customize your management style beyond an awareness of general workplace trends. There are several significant differences between generations that require a management style that can vary slightly to accommodate the individual.

For instance, in terms of communication style baby boomers are generally more reserved, while millennials are more outgoing and prefer to interact in person with others. This means that while baby boomers benefit from a traditional authoritative management style, millennials fare better with a collaborative coaching approach.


How can competencies help?

Competencies help define success in observable behaviors and skills. By creating job profiles with competencies for positions in your workplace, you will be able to better match complementary skills and build more effective multi-generational teams.

Competency-based assessments can also help you determine whether your employees are performing well, and if they’re achieving what they want out of their jobs. You can use this information to judge what matters to different generations of employees, and be more connected on a micro-managerial level.

Competencies are also effective at bringing stability and consistency to talent management, as they help quantify and set observable guidelines and goals for hiring, assessment, development, and more.