Managing the diverse generational workforce is a growing challenge for leaders at all levels of management, and in all sectors of business. As Traditionalists and Boomers maintain their health, or fail to properly prepare for retirement, they are choosing to remain in the workforce longer; while at the same time a large generation of Millenials is entering the workforce with their technological savvy and entrepreneurial attitude. (Martin, 2005) Leaders are left with a quandary never before tackled.
Key for any leader in the middle of managing multiple generations is to understand the unique mindset on work each representative generation possesses. Traditionalists look at work as though it is an obligation and a duty that requires sacrifice in order to make it through each day. (Bennet, 2012, p. 280)
Baby Boomers see it as an adventure that is exciting and rushing towards self-gain and personal fulfillment: all work and no rest is their mantra. (Bennet, 2012, p. 280) Some Boomers are even putting off retirement because of the technological advances available to them such as virtual workspaces and remote working. (Bennet, 2012, p. 279)
Generation X see work as a challenge to be achieved within a contract, but not costing them social or family life. (Bennet, 2012, p. 280)
Finally, the Millenials, or Generation Y, are still different. For Millenials, life and work are fully integrated with one another, and they seek fulfillment and meaning as contributing factors to their work/life integration. (Bennet, 2012, p. 280) Many misunderstand their independent spirit as reluctance to conform; (Martin, 2005) however what they seek is clear direction and support from older generations while also enjoying a degree of flexibility and autonomy. (McGuire, 2007)
Ultimately, as a leader it is impossible to avoid stepping on toes, but understanding can keep those incidents to a minimum.
Bennet, J., Pitt, M., & Price, S. (2012). Understanding the Impact of Generational Issues in the Workplace. Facilities, vol. 30(iss. 7/8), pp. 278 – 288.
David McGuire, R. T. B. (2007). Towards a model of human resource solutions for achieving intergenerational interaction in organisations.
Martin, C. A. (2005). From high maintenance to high productivity: What managers need to know about Generation Y. Industrial and Commercial Training, 37(1), 39–44.