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How to Leverage Each Generation’s Strengths to Benefit Your Organization’s Bottom Line

The U.S. workforce is more diverse than ever before with four predominant generations working in the same business environment. Each generation is distinctly different than the next, which can prove challenging for employers — but it can also be an opportunity so long as you learn how to manage the multigenerational workforce effectively. Why focus on management? According to Leigh Branham, author of the book “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave,” people are four times more likely to leave a job because of an issue in the office than for an outside opportunity. The top reason people leave is “loss of confidence and trust in senior leaders,” Branham says.

There are many benefits to organizations that proactively address multigenerational issues in the workplace, including improved corporate culture, competitiveness and employee engagement; more effective recruitment; and better employee retention. By understanding the different generations and what makes them tick, you will be able to attract, develop and retain leaders for your organization.

In order to leverage each generation’s strengths to benefit your organization’s bottom line, consider the following tips from “A Guide to Leading the Multigenerational Workforce,” created by MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online MBA program.

  • Develop a different communication method for each generation, catering to their preferences. Tailoring your messages to different generational preferences will show your employees that you understand that they each have different work styles and that you are willing to adapt to them. For example, if you want to effectively relay a message to a baby boomer, face-to-face communication is preferred rather than relying on electronic communication. Millennials, on the other hand, appreciate opportunities to voice their opinions and value constant feedback.
  • Create programs that require different generations to work together. Encourage generations to work together and share their knowledge through professional development programs. This will help to alleviate potential “brain drain” as older generations begin to leave the workplace. Today, baby boomers account for 31 percent of all jobs and 56 percent hold leadership positions. They also own more than 4 million companies. With nearly 70 million baby boomers expected to retire over the next decade, now is the time to create knowledge transfer opportunities.
  • Motivate your employees with enticing reward and recognition programs. As with communication, you must develop incentives that matter to each generation in order to motivate your entire employee base. When creating your reward and recognition programs, take into consideration what inspires and what alienates each generation.
  • Encourage managers to be flexible in their management styles. Each generation wants a manager that can revise their leadership tactics to accommodate the work styles of their employees. For example, baby boomers prefer managers who seek consensus and treat them as equals, while Generation X appreciates managers who are straightforward, genuine and hands off.

These tips should help you overcome potential challenges in the multigenerational workplace. Now is the time to adapt and implement solutions that effectively address the changing needs of your employees.

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