Embrace Your Multigenerational Workforce

by | 09 March 2015

Among the many interesting and insightful predictions for 2015, there is one that I find particularly salient to the conversations we are currently having within my company. According to CareerBuilder (and many other sources), “Demographic shifts are creating a diverse, multigenerational workforce.” Earlier this winter at my company meeting, I talked about diversity and why it is important and why people should care about this topic.

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Well, if CareerBuilder is right, then this theme further underscores the need to embrace diversity now, as it will directly impact your ability to attract and retain top talent. CareerBuilder sees this as one of the nine biggest workforce trends — and potentially one of the biggest workforce disruptions — you’ll face this year.

Why, you might ask? Well, for starters, we have multiple generations all working together in our organizations: the Silent Generation (born 1925 to 1942), Baby Boomers (born 1943 to 1960), Generation X (born 1960 to 1980), Millennials or Generation Y (born 1980 to 2000), and the recently named Generation Z (born mid-2000 to present). But they all think differently and process differently — with different ideas, problems, challenges, motivations and interests.

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Yet, we need to keep them all moving together harmoniously toward common goals for our organizations. The variety of styles, habits, motivations and strengths can make it very difficult for leadership to determine how best to influence and guide the organization. However, having this variety of thinking and ideas that come from these different generations serve to enhance your product or service offering. This is diversity. And this is why we need to learn to embrace diversity and use it as a competitive weapon, to enhance what you bring to the market as a competitive advantage.

Here is another 2015 trend prediction to consider — from McLean & Company. There is an increasingly urgent need to develop the next generation of leaders within organizations today. This is because it is becoming more and more difficult to hire leaders, as the competition becomes more fierce for a talent pool that is becoming harder to attract and is less skilled overall. This means that, within organizations, there is more need to enhance leadership bench strength. Baby boomers will continue to retire. And accordingly, skill gaps will continue to grow within organizations. Since organizations are flatter than ever before — which is another trend from the past several years) – this means they will be required to take more “leaps of faith”: moving individuals into leadership roles sooner than might have been done in the past.

So how does all this relate to the multigenerational workforce? Well, for the first time ever, Millennials will become the largest percentage of the workforce, and many are already in management roles. The CareerBuilder study found that 38 percent of the workforce is already managed by Millennials, and many of these are managing employees older than they are, such as Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

So, if you assume that many of these Millennials have not even been in the workforce long enough to build the experience and skills to make them strong managers, this means that more attention, mentoring and training will be necessary to help them succeed. And Millennials will need to figure out how to work with and manage their multigenerational colleagues. Millennials are often characterized as tech-savvy, collaborative and open communicators – all advantageous traits that will help them succeed in this new challenging environment. However, they are also characterized often as having a desire for immediate gratification, a need for recognition and not as willing to make personal sacrifices to advance their careers. These traits will persist as they enter into management roles and will need to be tempered to gain the full advantages of the diverse workforce that is now the norm.

Sound complicated? It is. Multigenerational workforces, flatter organizations, a tighter talent pool and younger, less experienced leadership are here to stay. For organizations that truly embrace this level of diversity and complexity, the opportunities for innovation, productivity, creativity and effectiveness are endless.