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Today’s workforce is made up of five generations, and teams often have two, three, or four generations working together. This causes challenges, but also offers up an equal number of opportunities. To turn those challenges into successes, these four things are critical.
Accept that there’s no one size fits all solution.
Managing a multi-generational workforce requires a more flexible style of management and a willingness to embrace change. There’s no one size fits all solution, so what works for one team may not work for another. There are more factors at play with a multi-generational team, so it can sometimes take longer to find a strategy that truly works. Be willing to experiment and don’t linger too long on a strategy that isn’t yielding results.
Get to know the people on your team and learn about their preferences, work styles, and motivations. Ask your teams for their input and ideas. After all, they’re the ones who are working together, so why not get them involved in the process? With smaller teams, you can touch base with each team member individually or in small groups. With larger teams that same level of personalization isn’t possible, so use surveys or host a series of meetings to get to know your team.
Don’t lead based on assumptions.
It’s important that you lead your team in a way that works best for them. You can’t lead based on assumptions. If you rely on stereotypes, generational or otherwise to lead your team, you’re doing them a disservice. You’re also making your job as a leader much more difficult. While stereotypes serve as a useful guideline, they aren’t gospel. As a leader, it’s critical for you to take the time to understand your team’s individual needs and preferences.
Stereotypes are best used as a reference point. They’re helpful in understanding the general needs of a group, but the danger lies in relying solely on them. Ensure that you’re making decisions based on real needs, not stereotypes. Not sure what’s a stereotype and what’s reality? Ask your employees. They’ll be happy to answer.
Actively lead your team.
Actively leading a team means monitoring them, engaging with them, and challenging and disciplining when needed. The more engaged you are with your teams, the better they will perform. Being in tune with their needs increases their performance exponentially. It helps you form a bond with them that in turn builds trust and connection. It also allows you to keep an eye on any problems that may arise and prevent them before they become disruptive.
This is where generational differences become more apparent. Millennials and Gen Z tend to prefer a more hands on approach with frequent check-ins. Gen X and Baby Boomers don’t tend to need as much contact and often prefer a bit more autonomy. However, these are only guidelines – remember that not every person fits their generational stereotype, so pay attention to your teams’ individual needs.
Asking questions is the quickest path to understanding. If you’re worried about stirring up trouble by asking something, remember that there is more at risk by relying on assumptions. The reality is that most people are happy to answer questions, as long as the motivation behind asking them is right.
The key is to ask questions from a place of curiosity, not judgement. For example, you notice that one of your Millennial employees always has headphones on while they work. Take a look at two approaches:
“Why do you always have your headphones on?”
“I’ve noticed that have your headphones on while you work. Does that help you concentrate better?”
The first question can come across as combative, whether that’s how you intended it to or not. The second is inquisitive and a much better prompt to start a conversation. If you’re truly at a loss for why an employee is doing something, you can always ask ‘Can you help me understand why you have your headphones on while you work?’
A question can be a start of a deeper conversation and is an excellent segue into a performance discussion. It invites the person you’re speaking with to participate and share their feedback. For Millennials and Gen Z, this is especially important, as they respond much better to feedback discussions rather than outright critiques.
May 22, 2019 at 08:30PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs