With multiple generations in the workforce today, there are bound to be employees in your business that span all ages. And while it would certainly be easier to manage the performance of your entire workforce in a uniform way, the reality is that each generation has specific ways of engaging, communicating, learning, and problem-solving. What works well for one isn’t necessarily going to work well for another.
Consider the fact that by 2025, Millennials will make up around 75% of the global workforce, even as the majority of Baby Boomers say they plan to work past the age of 65. Though these two vastly different groups may work closely together in many businesses, they’re motivated by completely different factors: company loyalty and teamwork for Baby Boomers and quality managers and unique work experiences for Millennials, to name a few. When you add Gen Z into the mix — motivated by diversity, individuality, and creativity — addressing what matters to everyone can quickly become complicated.
Across a wide spectrum of ages and disparate work styles, effective performance management is possible. But it takes conscientiousness and determination to understand the differences among age groups so you can manage performance appropriately and successfully. Here’s a closer look at the challenges of a multi-generational workforce and effective ways to manage it.
Different Experiences, Different Expectations
In addition to individual determinants like family upbringing, education, and community influence, each generation is profoundly shaped on a collective level by major societal disruptions and trends — think of the Vietnam War, the dotcom boom, and 9/11, or the rise of the Internet and the ubiquitousness of social media. Members of each generation bring the impact of all these circumstances, large and small, into their working lives, whether they’re conscious of it or not.
As such, it’s all too easy to be misunderstood or disregarded. For example, older generations like Baby Boomers and Gen X may defer to authority more than Millennials or Gen Z. Loyalty to a company vs. loyalty to one’s own career aspirations can be another sticking point between older and younger groups, as is relying on phone calls and in-person meetings to communicate vs. technology alone. If a particular employee has certain preferences or expectations that others don’t understand, it can lead to missed information, waylaid opportunities, poor performance reviews, and conflict.
With a large age range and variety of work styles to accommodate, there is no single approach to performance management. Instead, you’ll need to adapt your approach as the generational makeup of your workforce shifts and changes.
Managing Multiple Generations Effectively
It’s important to recognize, first and foremost, that each generation brings something unique and valuable to the table. No one has all the answers, but each generation has positive qualities and perspectives that can elevate the entire workforce. Here’s how you can bring out the best in all your team members, no matter their age:
Value the experience of older workers
Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have been around the proverbial block. They know and have experienced things that their younger counterparts haven’t. Yet it’s often common in our culture to orient ourselves toward the young; we’re conditioned to see youth as a guiding light to all that’s novel and progressive. As one group of human capital experts puts it, business leaders sometimes look for “shiny and new over tried and true.” But this attitude can also make it harder to recognize, let alone value, the kind of wisdom that only comes with age.
One way to bridge the “life experience” gap is to encourage younger team members and managers to engage with more seasoned workers — either through formal mentorship programs, greater diversity of ages on project teams, or in more casual settings like monthly happy hours or Zoom gatherings if employees are working remotely. By giving older workers a dedicated forum for sharing their hard-won knowledge and experiences, you seed in your entire workforce a respect for wisdom and show how important it is for growth and achievement.
While there are certainly some general assumptions you can make about each generation, it’s critically important to remember that every employee is still an individual. Not every Gen Z worker wants to avoid a face-to-face interaction, just as not every Baby Boomer is squeamish about technology. At the same time, everyone has specific qualifications they received in school, during training, or from years on the job, but they can also have unexpected talents and hidden potential that’ll go untapped if preconceived notions or unconscious age discrimination stands in the way.
Instead of stereotyping employees, talk to them about what will help them be successful in their role and how they’d like to advance their career. Chances are good you’ll find out some things you didn’t initially know or had assumed otherwise. This will help you find a path forward for communicating, setting goals, developing skills, and rewarding a job well done in a way that respects generational differences but also suits each employee’s individual style and potential.
Prioritize flexibility and efficiency
No matter the generation, flexibility has become increasingly important to everyone in the workplace. During the pandemic this past year, rigid work hours, meeting schedules, and other aspects of job performance fell by the wayside as managers and team members had to adapt to a new reality — one that likely included remote work in some way. As changes in the workplace continue to shake out, new processes and technologies that make performance management faster, more efficient, and more flexible are essential.
Integrating modern, automated performance management tools into your existing human resources ecosystem is an effective way to personalize and measure employee performance while staying aligned with overarching organizational goals and objectives. The flexible, efficient nature of these tools allows you to engage with individual employees, identify skills gaps, and coach and mentor them as needed to help them develop and succeed, no matter where they are in their life or career.
Improve Performance Management Across All Ages
Having a generationally diverse workforce is a good thing as a range of ages and experience levels can provide a richness of talent and perspective to any business. But generational differences can also lead to conflict on the job and pose specific challenges to performance management, especially in today’s distributed, remote-work environments.
Automated performance management as part of a comprehensive human capital management system can help you pinpoint and respect differences in work styles, preferences, and expectations so you can personalize employee performance across all ages and help everyone in your workforce thrive.
Learn more about our performance management solution.