The Challenges of Managing a Multigenerational Workforce

Diversity in the workplace now refers to generational diversity as well. Managers might find themselves managing a multigenerational workforce with employees ranging in age from 18 to 80 years. Not surprisingly, these employees will have very different styles of work and communication, varied needs in training, and differing levels of comfort with the latest technology. Managers may need to learn to deal with different generations according to their different needs and expectations.

Age diversity in the workplace
The multigenerational workforce is now a reality, with four or five generations working together in the same office and often on the same projects. As baby boomers put off retirement, employees may range in age from 18 to 80 years. With so many different age groups, skill sets, expectations and workplace styles, managing a multigenerational workforce can be a real challenge.
Managers may find that they have up to four generations in the workplace. By 2019, about a fourth of all workers will be over 55 years of age, according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And over a third, or 37% of all workers in the U.S., are Millennials, born after 1981 and before 1996. Different generations have varying attitudes to work, technology, and communication. The challenge for managers and employers managing different generations in the workforce is to identify the needs and expectations of each demographic group.

Managing a multigenerational workforce
People resemble their times more than their parents, as the old proverb reminds us. Sometimes it can be a matter of training, attitudes and skills. Older generations, generally looked upon as traditionalists, value hard work, face to face communications and conferences, training programs, and solid benefits. Younger employees may be much more comfortable with the latest technology, and prefer to communicate through texts and emails.
Older workers appreciate on the job training opportunities and workshops, but younger employees may become impatient with long meetings and conferences. Rather than sitting through presentations and training workshops, millennials may prefer to upgrade their skills through online training programs. Managing generational differences in the workplace is a necessary skill for most employers, given the age diversity of the new workforce.

What do Millennials want?
Studies have shown that millennials, as adults in the 18 to 34 years age group are known, crave feedback. As many as 80% of the people in this generation prefer regular feedback to the more traditional and formal performance reviews. Like other generations, however, they also want to have a positive impact on their organization. This is something they have in common with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.
Employment benefits are another unifying factor, with all age groups emphasizing the importance of health care. More than a third, or 34% of Millennials feel that it is an important benefit, while for all age groups, 40% feel that choosing health care is important.

There are many challenges in managing a multigenerational workforce. While styles and work habits may vary across generations, there are also many shared goals.