Getting The Most Out of a Multi-generational Workforce
By Nathan Green
There is no debate that generations differ in their beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. What’s not as clear is how to manage these differences when it comes to the workplace. Organizations have struggled with integrating each new generation into the workforce, most recently the Millennial generation. Should organizations try to integrate new generations entering the workforce, or instead, should the Millenials adapt themselves?
Many organizations have figured out how to get the most out of Millennials by adapting their workplaces, and as a result are tops in their respective industries – Facebook, Google, Apple and Abercrombie & Fitch to name a few. These employers understand generational attitudes and have built a work environment around their unique attributes and motivators.
Workplace psychologists suggest success in the workplace can be drilled down to two factors – attributes and motivators – can they do the job and will they do the job? While other factors may make one more successful than another, most experts agree attributes and motivation are the baseline drivers for achievement. Incentives, interests and influences (what motivates us) and our abilities, capacities and skills (unique attributes) were directly shaped by the generation in which we were raised. Therefore, to get the most out of each generation, the workplace needs to adapt its policies and practices.
Let’s run through a quick example: Do you look for different attributes and use different motivators when hiring a sales team vs. accountants? Let’s hope the answer is YES. We have learned that successful sales people are universally different from successful accountants and have built our workplace systems around this difference. Understanding the differences opens the path to getting the most out of each position and person.
What are the key differences associated with each generation? Below is a representative list of unique attributes and motivators for each generation:
|Gen Y (Millennial)Attributes:
From this list, you start to get a sense of how your organization should adapt to be a more Millennial-friendly environment. A good first step is to have your key leaders and HR spend time with the Millennials in your workforce to understand what drives them, why they chose to work for your company and how to get more out of them, even if it is on their terms. You may be surprised to find Millennials prefer you spend money on their training and development to benefit the organization, rather than on individual compensation. You may also find they are willing to work extra unpaid hours if it is team-oriented or mentor-based.
My favorite example of an organization that has captured the different attributes and motivators of each generation is the US Army. The taglines and personas they used, reflect the changing times and essence of each generation:
The taglines show how the Army accurately identified the differences in each generation and adapted their message. Each tagline is still relevant to each generation, in some cases decades later.
Many of our business models and terminology come from the military and sports, and learning to adapt is another good example. Here is your chance to win the war for talent – adapt to Millennials and you will be better prepared for generations to come.
Nathan Green is President and co-founder of Austin based campus2careers, the world’s first job board to match college students with local employers. email@example.com
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