In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey’s fifth habit encourages us all to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” If you want to interact effectively with your multi-generational team, educate yourself on each segments characteristics. Just as understanding your company’s culture helps you to communicate and navigate within that framework, being self-aware and learning to understand others’ perspectives will make you more effective at work, regardless of what generation you represent.
For the first time in American history, four generations are working side-by-side in the workplace: Veterans/Silent Traditionalists (1922-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1980) and Gen Y/Millennials (1981-2000). Each generation has distinct behaviors and motivational buttons. The more you learn about successfully mixing generations, the more smoothly your workplace will operate. Understanding each other’s roles and responsibilities and appreciating each other’s skills and strengths are key components to your team’s success. As an effective leader, consider spending time learning how your team members wish to communicate.
Veterans/Silent Traditionalists demonstrate a high respect for authority and are extremely disciplined. They adhere to rules–the casual, work-at-home concept does not fit into the mindset of their strong traditional work standard. Face-to-face interactions and written memos are their preferred communication media.
Boomers have a strong work ethic and will invest valuable time and effort to advance their careers. They have the benefit of a long work history, have built strategic partnerships and have a deep understanding of how to achieve the organization’s overall goals. Boomers prefer calls, meetings and structure in their communication but are quickly adapting and becoming more open to learning new ideas.
Generation X employees are self-reliant but want structure and direction from their leaders that will advance their careers. Though they will ask for input, they are always happy to design and implement an innovative new concept. Raised in an environment that lacked supervision, Xers are naturally entrepreneurial and prefer to work in an unsupervised setting. New on the scene, Millennials require a bit more supervision. They like working with bright, creative people and want to know that their work is meaningful.
For the most part, Gen X & Millennials are the product of Boomer parents or grandparents. Media and technology played a major role in shaping who they are and how they interact with one another. Email, voice mail and text messages are their communication tools of choice. They effectively use short verse to coordinate activities and resolve things quickly.
The following takeaways will help you improve your team’s performance, regardless of the generation mix in your workplace.
Motivate them by letting them know that their knowledge is respected. Lead by example and treat them with respect. You’ll find the younger generations will follow suit.
Give boomers credit for their historical memory and bank of experiences. Coach them in their goals and challenge them to grow in their skills and career by providing guidelines for improvement.
Help Gen Xers continue to gain skills that will make them marketable to any employer. Offer development opportunities that appeal to their focus on training and gaining transferable skills.
Establish yourself as a “mentor” versus a traditional “manager” for your Gen Y employees. Give ongoing feedback that is toggled with ways to immediately improve. Stress their positive traits. Take the time to inquire about their goals and tie them back into daily job tasks.
Keeping the focus on the common goal or mission of the organization and collaborating to leverage the strengths of each member will have your four-generational team singing four-part harmony to the same refrain.
Learn about Employee Development Systems, Inc. We are “The Accountability Company.” We have been addressing and resolving employee development, inter-generational, professional presence and personal effectiveness issues in corporations for over 30 years.