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Each generation of workers may have different priorities and strengths, but smart managers are able to tailor their management style to get the best performance from their employees. What many people think of as multi-generational issues or problems can actually benefit an organization if they are used correctly.

Set aside the common stereotypes about baby boomers or the millennials generation and think strategically about how you can create a strong multi-generational team.

The Experience of Baby Boomers

Younger employees can learn a lot from colleagues who have years of experience on the job. Research shows that older employees outperform younger generations in many categories, including: attendance, turnover, interpersonal skills and engagement.

What causes multi-generational issues, according to Peter Capelli of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is fear:

So the problem with older workers, the problem they are facing, is that younger supervisors don’t want to hire them because, frankly, they are afraid of them. They are afraid to hire older subordinates because they don’t know how to manage them. How can I hire somebody who is more experienced than I am in this job and expect to manage them? So they don’t know how to manage them and as a result they are afraid of it and they won’t do it.

Look for the big advantages that come from managing baby boomers instead of being intimidated by their work experience. Give them opportunities for continuing employee development, as well as chances to mentor younger colleagues.

The Enthusiasm of the Millennials Generation

Millennials have a reputation for being confident and collaborative, thriving in a team environment. According to new research, they also believe that making a difference through their work is a top priority.

In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the Career Advisory Board, 30 percent of people ages 21 to 31 said “meaningful work” is the most important measure of a successful career. Forty-eight percent of hiring managers, however, said they think this generation measures success by a high salary (only 11 percent thought younger employees valued “meaningful work” as a top priority).

This disconnect may be the cause of some multi-generational issues in the workplace. Managers should embrace this enthusiasm and desire to do work with meaning, as well as give constructive feedback that helps the millennials generation work toward their goals. Make employee training and development, as well as coaching and mentoring, an important item on your to-do list.

“Not only do they need to have a robust formal program but they also have to make sure employees understand it and make sure they know the program is there,” said Rebecca Ray, managing director at The Conference Board, a nonprofit business research group. “It’s not so much career path as it is career opportunity.”

What multi-generational issues have you experienced in the workplace? What strategies have worked to bridge the generation gap?


Learn more about EDSI’s Leading with Credibility course.

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