Never before has the workforce been made up of five different generations. That is right, five different ways of thinking, five different groups of people that have been exposed to different life-defining events, and five different ways of seeing a solution to an issue. This presents many differences for a manager, leader, or business to be aware of, manage, and lead.
We can all admit that we have heard or said that certain generations just "do not get it." There is some truth to that statement, but only to the person who thinks that and the person who does not understand other generations. A generation comprises a group of people who share a certain time frame and specific traits attributed to that group. That is typically where most people stop. They see the age and the traits of that group and leave it there. As a leader, manager or business owner, one has to go further into what a generation is. Managers and leaders have the responsibility to understand each generation, see their value, weaknesses, what traits are shared across other generations, and most importantly, what caused them to have that trait. A more detailed definition of a generation is a group of people who share specific traits that were developed during their formative years, caused by specific life events which were unique to their time. As a leader, you can find the value brought to the table by your team members if you can understand that.
Leading different generations is not an easy task to do. There are many different personalities and viewpoints that have to be managed. It can be frustrating at times, and specific team members may appear to be more of an anchor. It does not have to be this way though. You can have teams of different generations and have great success. Successful leadership is accomplished by being able to lead a team to the desired outcome. That means you have to be able to adapt. You have to have a more extensive skill set than your followers, and you have to be able to identify, pull and mold it all together. Do not take this as you have to accommodate for individuals because as a leader, you challenge and guide them, you do not accommodate.
In today's world, having a more generational diverse team is an asset. Each generation has specific skills and valuable viewpoints. Technology moves parts of your business faster than others, and the younger generations are entuned with the technology. However, the older generations hold knowledge and values that can only come with experience.
How do you make a team that is generationally diverse and will be productive? Before you try to put the team together, make sure that you have your cards in order first. Know your mission, vision, and values. Aligning the team with the company's mission, vision, and values has nothing to do with age or generation. It has to do with the individual. When you build your team, you must build it with members who believe in, buy into, and demonstrate the company's mission, vision, and values. By building a team that shares these common core business practices, you already have pillars for a great team.
Be able to communicate your strategy, know where you are, what you want, and how you plan on getting there. Like the mission, vision, and values, this is a belief that if you can clearly communicate to your potential team members and find the ones that can get behind your strategy, it again will not matter what generation they come from.
Now that you have narrowed down the potential candidates, you have to acknowledge that each generation has something to offer and that you as the leader will need to harness that. You also have to create a culture of mentorship and reverse mentorship. One thing that all generations share is they want to be valued, and they want to learn. The use of mentorship and reverse mentorship opportunities can create an environment that will allow for these valuable tools to be used. It will also give excellent groundwork for developing respect and acknowledgment of other generations and their value. This will allow one generation to see that other generations' ways and skills also have value and are crucial to success.
Traditionalists, the oldest of the workforce, are loyal, grateful to have a job, and believe in top-down decision-making. They believe in the organization, have strong work ethics, and exhibit accountability. They strive for clear communication and collaborative work environments.
Baby Boomers live to work, are loyal, have an attachment to authority, traditions, and culture. They are self-motivated and resilient to change. Success is vital as they are motivated by position, income, and reputation and are willing to sacrifice. Additionally, they have respect for other's autonomy and communication.
Generation X was the first introduced to technology. They are more diverse, self-defined but have a lack of loyalty to employers. They are very willing to conform to social norms and traditional values but are less competitive and more collaborative than other generations. Generation X prefers relationships over authority, and they thrive on challenges and change.
Millennials prefer being pulled together by a leader and have a desire for change. They exhibit more assertiveness, narcissism, and self-esteem. They are very team-oriented, multitaskers, and strong with technology. This generation has a want for learning new skills and thrives on recognition.
Generation Z is the most useful in the technology world than any other generation. They prefer freedom and individualism for their projects and, in turn, are not key on teams. They are very achievement-oriented, highly educated, inexperienced, but very diverse.
As we can see, each generation has its traits, and in general, not all, but many people from these groups have predominant behaviors from the list. Leaders and managers have to see this as what it is, a diverse group of different skills, knowledge, and attributes. A large amount of research has been conducted on this subject. They all agree on one thing. Different generations can disrupt the workplace, but different generations can also be harnessed for the company's good. How we harness it and how it can make your teams and company better are for a different conversation.