4 Steps to Being a Better Boss for Your Multigenerational Workforce

With baby boomers restlessly pacing at retirement’s door, it’s critical to plan now for the significant talent gap that lies ahead. Right now, your workforce is likely made up of multiple generations bringing different traits to the table. It’s critical to take advantage of this multigenerational makeup before baby boomers retire and transition out of the workforce. With the help of “A Guide to Leading the Multigenerational Workforce,” created by MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online MBA program, we’ll take a look at the unique characteristics of each generation and provide four steps to help you manage your company.

Who They Are

Within the current workforce, there are four generations that contribute individual perspectives and styles to the work environment.

  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964

Baby boomers were brought up during an era in which self-realization and self-fulfillment were key. They view their professional lives as careers more than jobs and place emphasis on a strong work ethic, company loyalty, and finding a “work-life balance.” Although their skills in technology are advanced, they still prefer old-fashioned face-to-face communication, which helps make them great team players.

  • Generation X: Born 1965-1979

Often referred to as the “Sandwich Generation,” Gen X is overshadowed by the size of the generations around it. Independence and the love of change are strong traits for Gen Xers, who are viewed by their peers across all generations as experts when it comes to generating revenue and building teams. This generation values authenticity, growth opportunities, and extensive flexibility to get work done.

  • Millennials: Born 1980-1995

As the most ethnically diverse generation, millennials embrace diversity in every aspect of their lives. Social responsibility is highly valued along with meaningful work — even more than an attractive salary. What they want most is the ability to achieve a work-life balance and have a say in how that’s done. As digital natives, they’ve always had 24/7 access to the Internet, which impacts how they go about their daily activities — including research, communication, and relationship-building.

  • Generation Z: Born 1996-2010

With 72 percent of Gen Z expressing a desire to be business owners, they have entrepreneurial aspirations that surpass all other generations. The oldest members are just starting to enter the workforce and are intensely focused on making a positive impact on the world. To do it, they’ll most likely use technology in some way — since many spend nearly every waking hour on a connected device.  

4 Steps for Leaders

Instead of viewing generational differences as a challenge, effective leaders should embrace the opportunity within the synergistic potential the differences provide:

  • Help boomers pass it on. With such a high sense of company loyalty and a strong work ethic, baby boomers are eager to leave a legacy. Since they value face-to-face communication, one way they can do it is by helping younger generations learn to build relationships beyond the digital world.
  • Give Xers freedom to flourish. Since their peers already view Generation X as experts in generating revenue and building teams, they should be given room to shine through increased responsibilities related to these strengths.
  • Make millennials models for others. As the generation most supportive of diversity, millennials offer just what your workforce needs — the ability to embrace the differences among peers. Help them to be models for others, which will optimize the synergy that you seek in your ranks.
  • Unleash the Gen Z momentum. Generation Z holds the potential to help organizations turn dreams into reality by making the most of their entrepreneurial drive and technological know-how. With a desire to have a positive impact on the world, they can help your organization achieve success while contributing to the greater good beyond the bottom line.

For a more in-depth look at how you can become a better manager by understanding the diversity of generations in your organization, check out “A Guide to Leading the Multigenerational Workforce.”

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