1) Executive Summary
This whitepaper will tackle the vast challenges and differences in generations that comprise today’s workforce as well as provide solutions on how to manage a multi-generational workforce. The major challenges managers come across when managing such an age-diverse workforce are age, values, negative stereotypes, communication style and decrease in company morale. Through further reading, you will discover the benefits of having a multi-generational workforce and how through mutual understanding, company culture and strategic team forming, you can overcome any challenges when managing a multi-generational workforce.
The increase in mixed generational workforces presents a challenge for managers when trying to create a homogeneous company environment. It is not just about creating a homogeneous environment but also creating effective teams and playing to employees’ strengths based on their experience and knowledge. Today’s workplace has become a place with clashes in work styles, knowledge, ethics and values, which vary depending on the age of the employee. Managers have struggled to find ways to eliminate these clashes and have their employees work alongside each other more efficiently.
According to a recent study Walden University conducted, they discovered that 58% of managers often struggle with conflicts between their younger and older staff. It is essential for managers to have an understanding of the differences each generation has in order to eliminate these clashes and create an efficient and united workforce.
3) What Generations Are There and What Makes Them Different?
• The Silent Generation or Traditionalists
The silent generation is considered to be born between the years of 1900 and 1945. They represent only 4% of today’s workforce. This generation values loyalty and discipline. Traditionalists have a focus on building a legacy and they strive to make a change for the better of the future youth. The Silent Generation is devoted to their job and company and they value teamwork. They are pragmatic and the least likely generation to blow the whistle. This generation is independent and tends to follow the rules. They demand respect for their experience but also tend to overestimate their professional capabilities due to their abundance of experience.
• Baby Boomers
This generation was born between the years of 1946 and 1964. They comprise up to 38% of the workforce. Baby boomers are driven by their ideals and frown upon the generations that are motivated by titles and materialistic goals. This generation is self-oriented and competitive and tends to question authority. They are optimistic and youthful regardless of their age, which is why they welcome technology with open arms and are able to keep up with the modern work trends. Despite their growing knowledge in technology, they still prefer face to face communication. Similar to the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers like teamwork.
• Generation X
Generation X is considered to be born between the years of 1965 to 1980 and comprise 32% of today’s workforce. This generation has materialistic values – money, titles and status are all relevant factors to them. They are independent and self-oriented with a tendency to mistrust authority. Generation X is result oriented and is motivated by their need for self-sufficiency. They are adaptable and prefer to work alone and believe there is no need for feedback or advice. People born to this generation were raised with encouragement to speak up and fight for their voice to be heard and value their families and work-life balance.
• Millennials or Generation Y
This generation generally falls between the years 1981-1997 and represents roughly 26% of today’s workforce. Although they do not represent the majority, this generation will represent 50% of the workforce by 2020. Millennials are tech savvy and eager to show their knowledge and innovative mind. This generation comes with optimistic views and is very sociable but also bores easily and tends to have high professional expectations. This generation is used to praise and confidence boosts from other parties and requires motivation to reach their full potential.
• Nexters or Generation Z
This is the generation that was born after 1997 and is still too young to contribute to the workforce. Nexters were born with technology and will bring great knowledge in this domain. It is still unsure what this generation will be like on the job but what can be said is that this generation has a short attention span and requires constant motivation in order to focus. They are creative and like teamwork. Similar to Millennials, Nexters want feedback and are open minded.
4) Challenges and Their Solutions
Today’s workforce is comprised of 4 generations: The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. It is natural that each age group will have a tendency to interact with other employees similar to their age. This group forming presents a challenge to managers as each group carries different values and work styles. The forming of groups can generate resentfulness, jealousy and loss of company morale, which can affect the overall productivity of your workforce.
To overcome this challenge, managers should acquaint themselves with the differences each aged group has as well as create a flexible office environment in which each generation can fit in to with ease. Managers should create strategic teams of different ages where members of each age group can benefit from the knowledge the other employees bring and through that gain an understanding and respect for them.
Each generation was raised differently and carries different values with them. Generations’ values were molded by impactful events such as the economic crisis, wars, recessions and technology booms. Some generations value family and work-life balance while others value material success and devote themselves to their work.
Managers need to understand the differences in values and create a company environment where all these values are respected but not prioritized. When creating a company environment, you should set your goals and company values which all employees will learn to carry on as well. It is important for you to understand each generation’s differences, but also to set private values aside and create a cohesive workforce that will share the company’s values. Once the workforce starts to share values and goals, they become more efficient and improve their overall work.
c) Negative Stereotypes
Various age groups are branded with different stereotypes. For example, Millennials are considered to be lazy, technology obsessed and entitled whereas the older generations are considered as less innovative, ‘old school’ (stuck in time) and stubborn.
Managers need to help their workforce overcome these embedded stereotypes by showing their staff that age is irrelevant in terms of skill and experience. By providing immediate attention to situations where negative stereotyping plays a role, managers can lay these brands to rest and create a better work environment.
d) Communication Style
Communication is the direct link that depicts how big the gap is between generations. One generation is tweeting and online texting while the other is using a more conventional form of communication through phone calls and paper note messages. Also Millennials tend to use abbreviations which can result in miscommunication if the receiving party does not understand them. Older generations have a formal communication style whereas the younger generations are less formal and use idioms or expressions to communicate.
The best way for managers to overcome the communication barrier is to refer to each employee in their preferred communication style and create groups where both styles can work together and learn from each other. Build team exercises and have them practice communicating with each other as well as let them step out of their comfort zone and embrace a new experience.
e) Decrease in Morale (lack of motivation)
When your workforce lacks cohesiveness and isn’t always on the same page, your employees tend to lose motivation and the morale of your company environment goes down. This can result in lower productivity, uncomfortable work environment and even loss of staff members.
To prevent a decrease in morale, managers need to keep their staff motivated. Motivating staff can be difficult but through group exercises, the employees can gain a better understanding of one another and even motivate and push each other to do better.
f) Tardiness and Absenteeism
Regardless of the generation, tardiness and absenteeism present an issues for managers across all industries. These can occur if the employees aren’t informed on time of new work shifts or schedule changes or even forget their shifts.
On average, businesses lose $2147 on absenteeism and $925 on tardiness.
To eliminate these problems and the loss of income, employers should take advantage of online software, such as Ximble’s employee scheduling and time tracking service. With this, managers and business owners can have the ability to monitor labor costs as well as inform their employees of new work shifts or changes in the schedule through automated SMS and push notifications.
With the use of Ximble’s software, managers were able to increase productivity and reduce absenteeism and tardiness by up to 70%.
5) Benefits of Having a Multi-generational Workforce
Despite the challenges, having a multi-generational workforce also comes with its benefits.When combining the knowledge and innovation younger generations have with the knowledge and experience the older generations possess, you can create the ultimate workforce where each generation contributes something that the other one is lacking. Older generations are able to pass down their knowledge and steer the younger employees in the right direction, while the younger employees can provide a wave of fresh ideas, youthful energy and work methods that can improve experienced employees’ productivity and effectiveness.
Furthermore, having diverse age groups working in the company can increase the success of your business as you will have the ability to gather input from various age ranges. This will give you the ability to expand your market share instead of targeting a single market group. Once you are able to broaden the scope of your market, your overall bottom line will improve and business profits will rise. Your business can also improve on customer service as each generation can explain and educate their colleagues on how to approach customers from their age group.
Moreover, with a multi-generational workforce, you can strategically combine employees to create groups with diverse skillsets. The employees will be able to complement each other with the skills they bring to the group. The less experienced but tech savvy employees will complement the less tech savvy employees, who can be experienced in delivery and critical thinking. With diverse age groups and skill sets, managers are able to create well-rounded teams and improve the relationships among employees as well as the overall success of the business.
As the workforce increases in age diversity, so does the difficulty to manage such a staff. Each generation was molded according to the time they grew up in and events they have lived through, such as wars, technology booms or the economic crisis. Each generation was taught different values and has different priorities and communication styles. Regardless of the differences, through mutual understanding, respect and communication, these differences can be turned into strengths for the company and the employees themselves. The collaboration of diverse age groups in the workforce can benefit the business and employees. Sharing knowledge and experience can increase businesses’ success levels and generate a more knowledgeable, empowered and motivates workforce.
To successfully overcome the challenges a multi-generational workforce brings, managers should first have an in depth understanding of each age groups values, priorities, experiences and backgrounds. Once you are able to understand your employees, you can embrace their differences and generate a driven and devoted workforce, and use the creativity and innovation as well as the wisdom and experience of your employees to generate more profits, increase customer satisfaction, strengthen your business culture and environment and improve your overall bottom line.
7) About Ximble
Ximble is online cloud based software that simplifies the scheduling and time tracking process managers tackle on a day to day basis. Ximble’s online schedule builder is user friendly and customizable to your company needs. Ximble offers the options of a self-service schedule system where employees are able to request shifts in the open schedule as well as request to trade shifts and cover for each other. The manager’s job is simplified and he only needs to accept or reject these requests. This process saves managers and business owners’ valued time they would have lost by taking in requests face to face and trying to create a schedule while considering the received requests. The self-service scheduling method also empowers employees and increases their efficiency as they gain a better work-life balance and a sense of control over their professional life.
The time tracking module Ximble offers eases the clocking in and out process for employees as well as simplifies labor costs tracking for managers. The time tracking module offers the option of photoClock, where the system takes a photo of the employee that is clocking in as well as the option of QR and pin codes. These options allow managers and business owners to rest at ease as the possibility of buddy punching is eliminated. Ximble’s time tracking module provides a clear insight on each employee’s worked hours and, therefore, makes the process of running payroll quick and simple.