managing a multigenerational workforce: 3 best practices.

  • workforce insights
  • August 01, 2018

A workforce in which multiple generations collaborate side by side isn’t anything new — just think of the old training model in which younger apprentices learned their skills from older craftsmen. What is new, however, is a workforce in which four generations are working together. Today’s U.S. labor force comprises the baby boomers (25%), Gen X (33%), millennials (35%) and Gen Z (5%), according to the Pew Research Center.

That’s good news for employers: According to the latest Randstad Workmonitor report, the majority (90%) of U.S. workers surveyed say they prefer working on multigenerational teams. And there’s also research supporting the idea that diverse teams are more productive teams — and that includes diversity of age.

Beneath that rosy outlook, however, Randstad's research revealed that wrinkles remain: most fundamentally, that different generations want different things from their employers.

So what can you do to ensure that everyone within your organization is aligned and you're getting the most value out of all your team members? Read on for three best practices for managing a multigenerational workforce.

developing the next generation of leaders

Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce today, but does that mean they’re ready to take charge in managerial roles?

If you ask their baby boomer and Gen X peers, the answer is mixed at best: Close to half (45%) of baby boomers and Gen Xers believe that millennials’ lack of managerial experience could have a negative impact on a company’s culture, according to a Future Workplace study.

What’s more, millennials themselves tend to express ambivalence about their readiness to lead. For instance, in Randstad’s Gen Z and Millennials Collide @ Work study:

twenty-nine percent of millennials said they’re effective at resolving conflicts twenty-two percent of millennials said they work well with older colleagues twenty-seven percent of millennials rated themselves as good managers

If less than a third of millennials believe they currently possess basic management skills, finding the leaders you need in the future may be a challenge, so it’s time to critically re-evaluate your approach to talent development. That starts with understanding what each generation wants in terms of training and development.

tailor your training to each generation’s needs

While opportunities for training, professional development and growth are valued by employees of all ages, not all generations are looking for the same type of training. In fact, one Randstad study revealed a distinct generational fault line running beneath the types of skills employees want:

Of respondents 18 to 34 years old, 66 percent said they needed to strengthen their personal skills. Of respondents 45 years of age and older, just 28 percent said they needed to boost their personal skills, but 70 percent said that vocational upskilling was critical to their development. So different generations are looking for different things when it comes to professional development — and that’s to be expected. But it also reveals an opportunity.

how mentorship programs help bridge the gap

In the Future Workforce study, 89 percent of respondents said that building strong leadership skills is important to them — but only 47 percent said that they currently work for companies that have formal mentorship programs in place to support their leadership development.

That’s where mentoring programs which pair younger and older workers — and hold specific benefits for each generation — come in. For millennials and Gen X, try to design mentorship programs centered around skill areas like:

building consensus and gaining buy-in communicating clearly and effectively navigating office politics persuading and influencing resolving conflict

For boomers, on the other hand, skills challenges often center on proficiency with digital tools — something that many young workers can do in their sleep. That’s why, for these generations, you might design a mentorship training program that focuses on using new communication, design or workflow tools. You may also have an opportunity to have your younger teammates mentor their older colleagues on using the latest digital applications.

Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so you’ll need to adapt each of these best practices to meet the needs of your company. By being proactive today, you should have no problem building, managing and developing your multigenerational workforce — in 2020, 2025 and beyond.