Today’s workforce is a blend of five generations, namely the Traditionalist or Silent Generation (typically born between 1925-1945), the Baby Boomers (typically born between 1946-1964), Generation X (typically born between 1965-1976), the Millennials (typically born between 1977-1995), and Generation Z or the iGen (typically born between 1996-2016). This unprecedented blend of multiple generations presents a unique circumstance for today’s managers and business leaders to effectively find and train tomorrow’s crop of leaders.
With such a diverse group of employees comprising today’s workforce, there are bound to be issues among multigenerational teams. Older employees might resent their younger counterparts, and young employees are likely to lose patience with those who do not respect them for their talents. Navigating through these potential issues has become increasingly important for today’s management teams, especially when considering who to recruit for leadership training. The following are three of the most common obstacles that management faces when recruiting new candidates for leadership positions and ways to overcome those challenges.
Combatting Negative Stereotypes
According to internet marketing expert and technocrat, Anand Srivastava, “Dissimilar age-groups can have certain stereotypical thoughts about each other.” This is evident in when a Baby Boomer mocks a Gen X-ers apparent over-eagerness to “kiss up,” or a Millennial mocks a Traditionalist for being to “stubborn” and “stuck in their ways.”
Glenn Rifkin, managing editor at Kornferry.com, had this to say about this situation: “Each [generation] has their own expectations, priorities, approaches, work and communications styles.” Obviously these negative stereotypes are caused by the friction between the clashes of these five elements.
With discord within the ranks makes it extremely difficult to find and train potential leadership, but how can it be avoided? The best solution to overcome these stereotypes is to find value in each generation’s strengths at a leadership level, and teach your candidates to do the same. By showing appreciation for a member of the iGen’s aptitude for tech-based problem solving, for example, you show your workforce how each member brings something unique to the company. When members of upper management focus on their team members in terms of their individual, generation-based traits, it becomes easier for the entire workforce to follow suit.
Overcoming the Age Gap
Rebecca Knight in a piece for the Harvard Business Review notes that, in recent years, it has become “more common to see someone younger managing someone older.” This age discrepancy can be the cause for negative sentiments and disillusionment for other employees. It is hard for people to work under someone younger than them.
One way to overcome the age gap is to make sure each employee knows they add value to the company. A Fastcompany.com article noted that, “no matter how tough the circumstances, you can get a high degree of commitment from employees who feel that are in the know that everyone counts.” Upper management in today’s professional world needs to be a candid and shrewd when deciding who to train to be tomorrow’s leaders. The person who has the most on-the-job experience may not be as qualified as a newer employee who is exhibiting drive and creativity, but if both employees feel valued then they are more likely to be satisfied with who gets the call up.
Embracing Generational Differences
One obstacle that leadership training faces is to effectively teach leadership candidates how to build a company culture that inspires their multigenerational teams. To address the situation, we need to look at its root cause. Business consultant Manny Rodriguez defines this root cause as “the differences of the generations” themselves. There is no way to change these differences, but it is possible to use these differences to the advantage of the team.
“It is critical,” Rodriguez continues, “to have a solid understanding of the generational differences.” By embracing each generation’s strengths and focusing on what they have in common, leaders can train tomorrow’s management to create the company culture of the future. For example, members of the iGen generation value direct interactions, which resonate deeply with Traditionalists and Baby Boomers. This can draw members of all three generations into the workplace culture and benefit both a company and its workforce.
As today’s leaders address these three stumbling blocks they will help tomorrow’s managers avoid many of the problems that effect multigenerational workforces today. Through training tomorrow’s leaders will have the tools they need to create a multigenerational workforce with a thriving company culture.
Need more ideas for how to onboard your multigenerational workforce? Join us for our webinar on how to Maximize Onboarding Impact Through Innovation and Scale, on September 27th for best practices on improving employee onboarding.