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Lead Your Team Managing

Bridge the Gap: Communicating With a Multigenerational Workforce

Bridge the Gap: Communicating With a Multigenerational Workforce
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Managing a workforce that is becoming increasingly diverse in age is no small task for many employers. A new study from Robert Half Management Resources reveals that communication is the most difficult aspect of managing a workplace comprising as many as four different generations of employees.

Specifically, 30 percent of the executives surveyed said communications skills are the greatest differences among their company's employees who are from different generations.

The research found that baby boomers tend to be more reserved, while Gen Xers prefer a control-and-command style. Conversely, Gen Y employees prefer a more collaborative approach to communication, and the youngest workers, those in Gen Z, like in-person interactions best.

How they adapt to change, their technical skills and how they work with other departments are the other biggest differences, the research found.

When it comes to change, Gen X and Y employees tend to see it as a vehicle for new opportunities, while Gen Z is used to change and expects it in the workplace. [See Related Story: Multi-Generational Workers Can Become a Unified Team]

"Each generation brings unique characteristics to the workforce, which should be embraced," said Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, in a statement. "Too often, managers see these differences as negatives, but building a team with diverse perspectives, insights and strengths can only be a positive, leading to improved products and service levels." 

Despite what some may think, managing a multigenerational workforce doesn't have to be hard, according to Hird. "For example, for years employers complained about how the work styles of millennials were disrupting the workplace," he said. "We know now, however, they simply have different outlooks, and the resulting changes from employers, such as new communication methods and enhanced work-life balance offerings, have benefited companies and employees alike."

To help employers, Robert Half Management Resources offers several tips for managing employees from different generations:

  1. Don't overthink it. Start from the perspective that all employees want to do well and help the company. That type ofviewpoint will lay a strong foundation when building relationships.
  2. Modify your style. While your employees have many of the same attributes, they also have individual needs. Work at customizing your management style, tailoring it to each person's strengths, personality and aspirations.
  3. Get out of the office. In order to get your employees of different generations to know each other better, consider hosting off-site team-building events. Being in a setting outside the office is a good way for employees to learn more about their colleagues.
  4. Let younger employees be heard. It is important to make sure employees from younger generations feel comfortable sharing their opinions with their older co-workers. Regardless of their age, employees who have expertise in a specific area should be able to share their perspectives with everyone in the office.
  5. Mix generations. When assembling teams to work on certain projects, mix and match employees of different ages who have different skill sets. This can spur innovation and new ways of solving problems.

The study was based on surveys of more than 2,200 chief financial officers from companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.