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multigenerational workforces and workplaces

We’ve all heard the meme by now: “OK, boomer.” Way to trigger those baby boomers! But to be fair, other generations have their share of teasing — there’s a literal bingo board filled with millennial mockery on the internet. It’s all done in good fun, for the most part. But if you manage or share a workplace with colleagues of various ages you know that sometimes it can be tricky to keep the team all on the same page and things running smoothly when inter-generational issues pop up. Even when everyone gets along well personally, communication and work-style differences can still affect performance.

We are living in a time when incredible age diversity exists in the workforce. I particularly like this clever snapshot from The New York Times:

For the first time, five distinct generations of employees — traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation Xers, millennials and Generation Zers — coexist in the workplace, all gathering around the same water cooler or washing their dishes (or leaving them for someone else to wash) in the same communal office sink. In 2018, more than 4 percent of Americans age 85 or older were still working; the millennial generation makes up about half of the American work force. The culture clash rooted in the vast age differences among colleagues — who in some industries, like retail or service, can be competing for the same jobs — is amplified by young people arriving with a digital skill set that their managers often need but might not have. Across industries, hiring managers and recruiters have had to fine-tune their strategies to attract a new hiring pool: both because of the sheer number of potential workers and because no one else can figure out how to embed a GIF.

Yes, Millennials Are Still a Thing

According to Catalyst, Millennials are the largest living generation in the U.S. labor force. In addition, the population of people 65 years and older is expected to almost double, with many of those folks continuing to work full-time or part-time jobs. And not to be ignored, Gen-Zers already make up five percent of the labor force, with Gen-Xers and baby boomers rounding out the mix. With these big shifts, employers are starting to take into consideration the ways in which they engage employees of various generations, and how they can best recruit them in a shrinking labor market.

It’s easy to write off one generation as lazy or another as uptight, but that doesn’t really take into account why they collectively do what they do. But a quick dismissal based on generational differences does a disservice to both employees and the employers. Understanding why other generations might have a certain work ethic, philosophy or behavior can go a long way toward better engagement with workers, or toward finding a better way to bridge the communication gaps between them.

How to Engage a Multi-Generational Workforce

Employee engagement is only successful when people feel their company appreciates them, hears them and supports their best interests. There are specific things to consider about engagement when you are managing a multi-generational workplace. According to Workforce.com. these include:

  • How different generations collaborate and work together
  • How your company engages, manages and retains employees
  • Ways to better unify employees in an age-diverse workplace
  • Ways to communicate effectively across several generational audiences
  • How to avoid appearing judgmental or discriminatory against any particular age group

If you do not succeed in creating meaningful employee engagement with one or more age groups in your workforce, it can result in reduced productivity and problems in employee retention. What’s more, it can also result in a lot of unnecessary drama and even possible age-related discrimination claims.

Keeping in mind generational difference when you are hiring can help your recruiting efforts, too. Things like building your employer brand and fine-tuning your talent acquisition strategies to better reach various generational groups can go a long way in improving employee performance and engagement. 

Do You Need Help Engaging and Retaining Your Workforce?

We can help you find the best ways keep your employees engaged throughout their employee life cycle journey. RAI Resources is a premiere HR consulting and professional recruiting firm, and we provide tactical, practical employment assistance across a number of fields, including: manufacturing, construction, logistics, professional services and engineering. Contact us today for your complimentary, no-obligation consultation.

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