How well does your small business manage your multi-generational workforce?

Photo courtesy of the  German Federal Archive

Photo courtesy of the German Federal Archive

Today’s workforce is increasingly becoming multi-generational. If your business can’t meet the demands and expectations of all of them, you’re going to experience costly, unnecessary turnover. By recognizing how to bridge the gaps between multiple generations, you can reduce turnover and give your company a competitive edge.

What Generations Are Represented in Today’s Workforce?
There are four predominant generations:

  • Traditionalists – Born between 1922 and 1945
  • Baby Boomers – Born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X – Born between 1965 and 1980
  • Generation Y – Born between 1981 and 1994

Each of these generations has its own particular set of work ethics, characteristics, and expectations from their employers. In order to attract, retain and engage your workforce, your small business must recognize the distinct differences between these groups.

  • What are the key differences?
    Traditionalists: At their years of experience, in most large organizations, Traditionalists are typically presidents of companies or serve on boards of directors. They value strong leadership and loyalty, believe in conformity, and prefer hierarchical organizational structures.
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  • Baby Boomers: Baby Boomers want to work for companies with solid financial futures and are looking for a place to work long-term. They are motivated by opportunity and compensation, and value individual choice, group decision-making, ownership, and prosperity.
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  • Generation X: Generation X workers value stability, but also want to work for a company that is flexible. They prefer hands-off management and opportunities for growth within a company, technology over traditional interactions in the workplace, and strongly dislike corporate environments.
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  • Generation Y: Generation Y, also known as Millennials, employees want to work in a casual workplace that values self-expression over self-control. They want a challenging career in which respect is earned, demand opportunities for growth, and need instant feedback and high compensation for good work.

4 Areas your small business wants to address with the 4-generation workforce

While it may seem like the four generations have distinct differences, there are still ways you can attract and retain the top talent from each generation. First, and most importantly, you need to value each generation for its unique skills and perspectives. Appreciate the loyalty of your Traditionalists, while valuing the go-getter attitude of the Generation Y workforce. Then you’ll want to implement HR solutions that target each type of employee. Three examples:

  1. Recruiting
    Each type of generation has its own reasons for working for a particular company. Baby Boomers, for example, are looking for a steady business from which they can retire, so you’ll want to emphasize your retirement benefits, stability, and leadership opportunities. Generation X recruits, on the other hand, look for fast rewards, hands-off management, and a career that affords them a comfortable work/life balance.
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  3. Engaging and managing
    Each type of generation likes to be managed in distinct ways. If you respond and lead effectively, you can keep each generation engaged and productive. Generation Y workers, for example, enjoy collaborative working styles, diversity in their day-to-day tasks, and guidance from management. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, want to be valued for their experience and given rewards through status (such as a new job title).
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  5. Training
    Training varies among each generation. Baby Boomers are traditional and generally like the classroom or hands-on style of learning. Generation Y workers, however, want mentorship, training that uses advanced technology, and an understanding of how their contributions impact the company’s success.
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  7. What’s next?
    Look out for Generation Z, which are those people born after 1995. Also known in some circles as Gen 2020, iGen, or Gen Tech, these “kids” seem to be attached to their smartphones. They want jobs that have a social impact, and they are entrepreneurial, community-oriented, prudent and more tolerant of racial, sexual and generational diversity. Will your small business be prepared with hr solutions for employing and managing these “digital natives?”

By taking the time to understand the core differences in your four-generation workforce, you can effectively attract and retain the best talent within those generations. Get your copy of Practical Tools to Manage Costly Employee Turnover to learn more about how managing these different generations can reduce turnover.

This article first appeared at the MJ Management Solutions Blog.

About Margaret Jacoby

Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive.

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