Leading a multi-generational workforce can be a challenge, yet it can also be one of your company’s biggest assets. An age-diverse workplace is a repository of wisdom that can be used to improve your small business operations, customer service management, product development, marketing and sales.
What is a multi-generational workforce?
A multi-generational company is one in which the employees were born in different age groups, broken down roughly by 20 to 25-year periods. These groups have been labeled Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Veteran/Greatest/Silent/Traditionalist.
Boundaries for these generations tend to get drawn by the media and the limits vary by several years. The Census Bureau refers to “age cohorts” in the following time periods:
• Millennials were born 1981 to 1997
• Generation X was born 1965 to 1980
• Baby Boomers were born 1946 to 1964
The exact boundary dates don’t really matter. What matters is that we draw insight from the common experiences and preferences of each of these generations.
Statistics about the multi-generational workplace
Using the dates in the multi-generational infographic below, along with age-related employment data from the Census Bureau, we get a demographic picture of what today’s workforce might look like:
• 12% are baby boomers
• 45% are Generation X
• 41% are Millennials
• 1% are the Silent Generation and 1% are under 18 (Generation Z)
Of course, these numbers will change a few points either way depending on the age boundaries you want to use. And again, it’s not the precise age specifics which matter. Recognizing that there are general differences is what will help us to improve our business operations.
Motivating different generations in the workplace
We’ve all heard the cliché that “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” For example, you could tell someone, “Nice work handling that difficult customer today.” If you’re rolling your eyes as you say it, it’s received quite differently than if you’re shaking their hand and smiling as you say it.
We can take that a step further by recognizing that there are subtle differences in how each generation responds to various communication styles and management methods.
In other words, it’s not only how you say it, it’s how you say it to each generation.
Tips for Bridging the Gap in a Multi-Generational Workforce
Ultimately, a multi-generational workforce can be one of your company’s greatest assets when you take time to understand the differences. The multi-generation infographic below, courtesy of Award Concepts, outlines four generations in the workforce and offers five tips on how to bridge the gap between them.
In the end, let’s not forget that every employee is an individual with a unique mix of personality, skills, and aptitude. They’re able to offer up something that no one else on earth can.
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