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Spotlight on Walden // Nov 11, 2016

Leading Multigenerational Organizations

Wanda Gravett

Dr. Wanda Gravett

It doesn’t matter if you’re a 30- or a 60-year-old executive—or someone in between. No matter what age, there is a great variety of talent in today’s workforce, and each person has his or her own strengths. Understanding the various generations within our workforce will help you pinpoint how to improve your team’s dynamics, keep individuals engaged, and help attain your company’s goals.

Let’s start with the essentials. Who are the people in today’s workplace and what motivates them?

The Traditionalists
Sometimes called the Silent Generation, these people are in their early 70s and older. They are great team players and get along really well with others in the workplace. They process and respond to information thoughtfully, even if they may be less tech-savvy. They prefer in-person interactions, so include these opportunities when designing how your team communicates.

Baby Boomers
Members of this generation are predominantly in their 50s and 60s. They are well-established in their careers, which means they have lived through a lot of changes in their industries and can bring very different perspectives to a team’s discussions. They are used to working long hours and have a strong commitment to the workplace. They also really like face-to-face time in the workplace, so they do not find much value working from home. It’s necessary to give good feedback and new challenges to this group to keep them engaged. Another benefit? They enjoy sharing their expertise gained over the years, which may make them great partners for younger leaders on your team.

Generation X
This is a smaller generation, which consists primarily of people in their 30s and 40s. Whether they are managers or individual contributors, they value autonomy. Many watched their hardworking parents experience burnout or layoffs, so they place a premium on finding balance between work and home. Although they prefer to have the opportunity to work from home, they are also extremely ambitious. They love diversity, challenge, responsibility, and creative projects. A hands-off attitude works best if managing or mentoring this generation, but leaders must also focus on integrating this generation’s voices and ideas in team dynamics and frequently offering new challenges to keep them engaged.

Generation Y
Also known as Millennials, these relatively new college graduates are the fastest growing section of the workforce. What they lack in experience, they make up for with new perspectives and creative solutions. They want personal growth and meaningful careers, and they purposefully seek mentors. They are the most tech-savvy generation we’ve seen to date, which means leaders may need to try different methods of communication (a combination of texts, e-mails, and in-person meetings) to see this group light up with enthusiasm.

It’s realistic to expect that you have team members from at least three of the four groups above. How do you improve the dynamics of a multigenerational workforce? It starts with communication.

Focus not only on sharing information more frequently to increase transparency and garner respect, but also analyze how you and your team prefer to communicate and interact. One team member may respond best to an impromptu in-person meeting; another may prefer to read information in an e-mail so they can prepare for the discussion. Try different tactics—and get your team involved so they can add their input and come to a consensus. Informal mentorship opportunities may also create excellent ways for members to increase their skills and opportunities to collaborate.

Finally, see your multigenerational team members for the opportunities they present, not the challenges. This perspective will help you capitalize on their diversity to create an exceptional team that builds organizational capacity to excel.

Since joining Walden University in 2007, Dr. Wanda Gravett has served in a variety of roles, including core faculty member, associate dean, and senior lead on special projects. Before joining Walden, she served as president and CEO of Cynergy Group, a Seattle-based software development company, and was a corporate capital and strategic planner for several corporate entities.