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Strategies for Developing a Multigenerational Global Workforce
Managing a global workforce diversified with a myriad of cultures and languages is further challenged by the fact that leaders now must understand the needs, expectations and differences of at least three, if not four generations of employees. The four generations:
1. Traditionalists—born between 1928 and 1945
2. Boomers—born between 1946 and 1964
3. Gen Xers—born between 1965 and 1976
4. Gen Yers—born after 1976
The Boomers, the most notarized cohort estimated to be between 76 and 80 million or 25 percent of our total population of 300 million, provide a special managerial challenge since many, now past traditional retirement age will be unable to leave the workforce because they haven’t the long-term employment equity to support themselves financially.
The Gen Xers totaling only about 50 million have developed a basic distrust for the workplace because they observed their parents and grandparents working long, dedicated years for a single employer, only to lose their jobs when economic circumstanced changed the relationship between employer and employee from one of continuity to one of unpredictability.
The Gen Yers or Millennials, another 76 to 80 million, presents a challenge to management to the extent that they are faced with the need to adapt to older colleagues and to find themselves fast-tracked into leadership positions where understanding the needs of their chronological seniors will be critical to their success.
Those remaining in the Traditionalist cohort are difficult to predict as it relates to remaining in or retuning to the workforce. While traditional retirement may be on option for many or most, practically the anticipation of living so many years without either the purpose or the income provided by one’s work, will continue to be a factor as the reality becomes readily apparent.
There are other considerations that serve to cross generational lines including the differing needs of those whose preferences are either more introverted or extroverted and those who prefer thinking versus feeing and sensing versus intuition.
Although the command and control mentality of management has been proven to be ineffective since the workforce has become educationally and experientially more discerning during the past fifty years, authoritative styles have continued to persist unless challenged by low productivity and enlightenment of the managers themselves. Attempts to develop leaders through academic and group interactions have been marginally effective, since one who only understands command and control is unlikely to change unless the change comes from within. This understanding requires the significance of identifying those who not only understand the proper role of a leader, but who aspire to becoming leaders.
Leadership of a multigenerational workforce requires people who understand both the intellectual and the emotional characteristics that serve to create an environment where people are treated like they wish to be treated, not as a manager wishes to treat them.
While good leadership requires that one set clear expectations, engage in discussing the reasons behind a task, goal or objective and ensure that people know how to do the expected, it is also paramount that the leader recognizes and appreciates generational differences in a team or staff and that those differences be honored and respected.
Meeting the needs of Gen Yers
Young people respond to leaders who demonstrate respect and consideration in their leadership style. They need to be asked or requested, not told. They need leaders who take time to help them understand the nature of a task or project and who give them continuous feedback as they perform the requested activity. Since they are technically competent, cyberspace is very comfortable for them as a learning tool, especially if lengthy classroom instruction is avoided. They respond well to team-based assignments and will be content when the entire team is recognized for its success. They prefer flexible work schedules that allow them to feel that they have more control over their lives.
Meeting the needs of Gen Xers
Probably the most corporately disaffected of the cohorts, Xers need leaders that they can learn to trust, which will challenge any leader who is subject to the nature and vicissitudes of many cultures. When leaders are perceived as square shooters, Xers will become motivated and committed to achieving the organization’s goals, especially when they feel that the organization is interested in helping them develop professionally. When exposed to effective role models and education, they, too, may become capable leaders of those both older and younger than themselves. Like those younger, they appreciate spontaneity, especially when it is perceived as a reward.
Meeting the needs of the Boomers
People in their forties, fifties and sixties share a common need for predictability in the nature of their work and the expectations of their leaders. Most have experienced frequent job, if not career changes that have impacted their ability to feel loyalty to any organization. Therefore, leaders should seek to motivate Boomers by helping them acquire the skills and knowledge that will keep them employable and by giving them work that will challenge and satisfy their need for success. While people of all generations have an inherent need for recognition, Boomers have a greater need than most. Compensation is likely to be more a factor in retention because Boomers will not see a plethora of opportunities open to them.
Meeting the needs of the Traditionalists
The Traditionalist generation needs recognition and appreciation for their strong work ethic, their natural commitment and their dependability. They need to be given clearly defined roles and responsibilities and considerable latitude to perform them, since micro management will be a strong source of demotivation. However, they differ from their younger cohorts by virtue of their resilience and their willingness to endure less than satisfactory work environments. Of all the others, these people will be less motivated by compensation and significantly motivated by the nature of the work itself and appropriate recognition for work well done. While many are challenged by technology they are willing learners when provided with interactive learning experiences.
York Career Development, Inc. supports client need to prepare leaders to recruit, develop and retain people of the various generations, especially younger managers, who will be challenged by working with three generations of people who are older than themselves. Options include: