First published in Beauty Biz Magazine.
Today, we have an unprecedented number of five generations making up our workplaces. With the huge differences in their upbringing, familiarity with current technology and the massive amount of change and information to deal with, the reality is that we are part of a group of diverse and complex group of people.
So how do you get the best out of such a mix of different generations? In order to bring out the best of your employees, I have highlighted some of the key generational differences to watch out for.
If you employ a baby boomer, the chances are that they will prefer a more ‘command and control’ style of leadership which is primarily task orientated. Baby boomers prefer to get results rather than worrying about ‘way we get results’. Therefore, in order to bring out the best of this generation, always provide clear direction to them.
Leadership in the Gen X period however, was all about ensuring that people felt rewarded. Gen X Staff gained promotion earlier but also worked longer hours, which led to more stress and anxiety. The Gen X staff member therefore will also focus on getting results. It may seem that they understand staff and their needs but deep down their main priority will be getting the task done.
These days, we are seeing an increasing amount of Gen Y in the work place. This generation appreciate collaboration and working for the great good. When managing a Gen Y, use a more gentle coaching approach and invite them into conversations. Gen Y like to be connected with on a deeper level and if they feel their values are aligned to your business, they can be fabulous employees and just get on with it! However, this approach can be quite confusing for the two earlier generations who are looking for direction and clear measure of outcomes.
Considering this, if a Baby Boomer Manager says to a Gen Y ‘We need to finish this project’, the Gen Y is more likely to question why it needs to be done in the first place!
Therefore, to lead Gen Y effectively you need to discover what energises them to do their best work and then ask them to contribute. The environment that brings out the best in Gen Y needs to cultivate advocacy, continuous improvement, and innovation in order for Gen Y to thrive.
Also it’s important to consider the different types of communication each generation may prefer. Baby Boomers may not be as technology savvy as Gen Y so may prefer clear and direct communication through a small number of channels.
When communicating with Gen X , keep in mind they are often mindful of status and like to make sure they have covered any risk to themselves. Therefore, verbal communication followed up with written is their preference. They will also question and challenge so they understand the implications before they begin.
Gen Y will use as many communication channels as they have to hand, and all of them at once. They want immediate responses and if they don’t get a response through one channel will resort to another one. This can be confusing and frustrating for earlier generations.
Recognising that each of the generations have different motivators is another key to leading and working with them. The information the people around you need so they can understand what makes a task or project important will be different. For Baby Boomers if the boss wants it that makes it important. For Gen X if it contributes to the bottom line, my performance, my team’s performance that makes it important. For Gen Y if it makes a difference, that makes it important.
As Gen X and Y move up the leadership ladder ‘How things are done’ is becoming more important, not just “what is done”. There is recognition that people are the key to the success of any organisation and that to bring out the best in people you need to create the organisational environment and opportunities for people to thrive in.
Mentoring and coaching as leadership approaches are more effective and becoming more widely spread. These are recognised as some of the most effective ways to both transfer knowledge, mentoring, and develop talent, coaching, while creating clear accountability in individuals and promoting continuous improvement.
Fundamentally, you need to adapt your approach to support the individuals in your team.