“Age is no guarantee of efficiency. And youth is no guarantee of innovation”.
A heterogeneous workforce brings several ideas and multiple perspectives to the table, which is beneficial to the organisation. One of the most important aspects of diversity is age – in other words, a multigenerational workforce!
The HR practices should place adequate emphasis on generational disparity because employees belonging to different age groups will have different expectations and approaches to work.
A good HR manager should be able to understand these differences and be flexible enough to play according to their rules with the objective of optimising the output from each generation of people.
A seasoned HR manager uses different tactics to handle different generations in various aspects of managing people according to their nature.
While there are no standard definitions, the majority of the current workforce can be categorised into four generations based on the year of birth.
- The Baby Boomers (born before the year 1965)
- Generation X or Gen X (born between 1965 and 1985)
- Gen Y or Millennials (born between 1985 and 1995) and
- Gen Z or Centennials (born after 1995).
The mindset varies across generations. This means that there is a stark contrast to the way they view their career, personal lives, priorities, managing money, tech-savviness, responsibilities and their notion of fulfilment. Such differences invariably seep into the workplace.
Clearly, a ‘one size fits all’ solution does not exist. In order to maximise employee satisfaction and productivity, an HR manager has to adopt a different approach towards each generation in the various aspects of personnel management.
What A Seasoned HR Would Do To Manage A Multigenerational Workforce!
Here are the 5 aspects that a seasoned HR professional would consider to successfully deal with a multigenerational workforce.
1. Recruitment And Selection
Usually, seniority and experience are directly correlated. Invariably, the average age of senior and top management employees is significantly greater than those in junior and mid-level positions.
The first task of the talent acquisition team is to identify the requirements of the multigenerational workforce across domains and designations. Once this is done, the categorisation based on generation should be done. The sources of talent pools are usually different for different generations.
For example, campus recruitment and job fairs are ways to reach out to potential employees who are younger, whereas senior positions can be filled by promoting existing employees or through referrals.
The next step is to come up with a recruitment process for each generation.
While doing this some basic factors to be considered are the number of vacancies, an estimate of applicants and cost efficiency. Additionally, identifying the strengths and weaknesses that are common to each generation goes a long way in determining who is suitable for which kind of role!
Avoid stereotyping people, based on the generations to which they belong – there are lazy, entitled people in every generation, just as there are thoughtful, committed, and driven people!
An HR manager has to remember that recruitment is an opportunity for branding. Different generations may judge the same information in divergent ways owing to dissimilarities in their perceptions.
Tailoring the process (steps, communication, type of test etc.) according to each generation will make the recruitment process more effective.
2. Performance Management
This is a key result area since maximising performance is a major objective of upgrading HR practices. There are several theories revolving around performance management.
Some thought leaders swear by positive reinforcement while some others find the ‘carrot and stick’ approach to be more effective in terms of output. An HR manager needs to be sensitised to values of the generation of people s/he is dealing with and motivate them accordingly, to ensure that performance is not adversely affected.
Do not restrict leadership opportunities only to the senior-most personnel in the organisation – allow employees from different generations to opt for leadership roles based on their skill sets!
Employees belonging to different generations have different goals career-wise and financially, which are in alignment with their views on life. Understanding these differences and coming up with different structures for structuring salaries, allowances, perquisites and other benefits can make or break the decision of an employee to continue in your organisation.
Reduced turnover and attractive packages can improve the overall performance.
When it comes to consumerism at a grass-root level, youngsters are more ready to spend on experiences such as travelling, due to a few popular mantras such as YOLO (You Only Live Once), FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and Carpe Diem (Seize the Day). Thus, they would appreciate vouchers and special discounts.
The experienced crowd probably finds retirement planning schemes more attractive.
Keeping a tab on such patterns and incorporating them in the rewards and recognition system can motivate employees more than conventional approaches can. This will have a positive impact on the performance.
3. Training And Development
Imparting the relevant skills to employees is crucial for updating the knowledge of the organisation’s human resource which will ultimately increase the quality of work.
However, disparate generations will need training in unrelated areas.
For example, the Baby Boomers might need sessions to become comfortable with a new technology that the organisation has adopted to become more efficient.
The millennials and new entrants might take some time to fully comprehend the what, why and how of their work. They need to understand the underlying concept and impact of their work in order to align their thoughts with the overarching objective of the organisation.
Development goes beyond skills. In addition to encompassing training, development involves growing and shaping of employees such that they are chiselled into perfect fits for the organisation. While the objective is the same for employees of all ages, the approach should be modified in order to suit each generation of the multigenerational workforce.
For eg. Millennials tend not to like to read long, detailed case studies, so they need to be replaced with short, timely examples. Also, they prefer working in teams, as against Generation Xers who like working independently. Boomers like relevancy in their learning, so those examples should be relevant to the workplace and result in actions or knowledge that can be applied to their jobs. Generation Xers and millennials appreciate constructive feedback, so providing opportunities to give and receive feedback during the training session is a great initiative!
This varies a lot depending on the organisation’s culture, size, industry, goals and nature of work.
4. Interactions Between Generations
Generation gaps are natural in most setups, be it in a family or at the workplace. Interactions between persons of different age groups are inevitable. There is a tendency for the generation gap to creep into official conversations, which can cause conflict.
Fostering an environment that is free from bias based on age and where the same level of professionalism is maintained while communicating with employees across generations will aid in minimising such issues. It is also important to make employees of different age groups understand that each viewpoint counts so that they respect others equally, regardless of the generation.
Setting up informal mentoring opportunities between the older and younger generations can be a great way to reduce the gap – the younger ones could train the older ones about technology, while the latter could share their expertise when it comes to career development opportunities.
If it is possible, changes to the physical environment can also be made to make it more conducive. There are easy yet innovative ways to do this such as dedicating a particular wall to memes. Adjustable lighting and temperature controls can be installed to be accommodative of the Baby Boomers who are more sensitive to these.
There’s another effective way of closing the communication gap between the generations, one that also contributes to the talent development within the organisation…
5. Mentoring And Reverse-Mentoring
Reverse or reciprocal mentoring is about pairing the younger employees with the seasoned ones, and giving both generations an opportunity to learn from the other.
For instance, the more tech-savvy millennials could teach the baby boomers about the ways of using social media effectively. The older generations could, in turn, help the current generations to adapt to the ways of the business, and sharpen their technical knowledge.
However, a reverse mentoring relationship, in a multigenerational workforce, can work only if the following factors are carefully considered:
- Both parties need to be clear about their expectations.
- Both parties need to be committed to the mentoring relationship and follow the rules.
- Both parties must have a ‘genuine willingness to learn’, since they’d both have to act in the capacity of a mentor and mentee, during the course of the program.
- Both parties will need to let go of their prejudices and preconceived notions and communicate clearly.
A good HR manager will focus on recruiting, developing and motivating a multigenerational workforce where every employee is seen as an asset. This involves working towards ensuring that their unique talents are monetized, rewarded and recognised not just by the HR but also by other employees. Pleasant interactions make the workplace more positive and in turn improve employee satisfaction.