When managing generations in the workplace, leaders at every level are tasked with managing employees who can span multiple generations. Recognizing the differences, both the pros and the cons, of each generation is key to laying the groundwork for a successful workforce program.
Currently, we have at least five generations in the workforce: veterans, baby boomers, generation Xers/Yers and millennials. With each should come different expectations as a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work.
Baby boomers are known for being competitive and thinking workers should pay their dues. Generation Xers/Yers are likely to be more skeptical and independent-minded and millennials are prone to prefer teamwork, feedback and technology. All of these generations can be great assets to the company, but each require and respond to different tactics of engagement.
With baby boomers, we get valuable experience that cannot be readily replaced. As they move toward retirement, we need to ensure they are sharing this experience with the generations that follow them. Generation Xers/Yers are entering the prime of their careers and are eager to make their mark as they progress, drawing knowledge from the generations before and after them. Millennials embrace current technology with ease and can be encouraged to apply this toward moving the company forward into the future with innovative ideas. As a leader, it is important to learn to recognize the differences between generations so each can be effectively engaged for optimal performance.
There are many overlaps and opportunities for synergy between each group. Facilitating the mentoring and sharing of knowledge and experience between generations is key, as well as keeping employees engaged through education and by assigning tasks that are outside of their daily job activities. This especially applies to millennials. They seek access to learning and professional development in the workplace. Contrary to popular misconceptions, millennials are very hard workers and willing to devote themselves to companies they feel are willing to invest in them.
One-fourth of the insurance industry workforce is expected to retire by 2018. As an industry, it is important we recruit the millennials into the insurance industry and educate them on its wealth of opportunity. It’s up to us as leaders to equip ourselves with the knowledge, patience and forward thinking required to not only embrace and retain the latest generation of workers, but to foster and continue the growth of their more established peers.
We all have preconceived notions of what a perfect employee is, but effective leaders recognize that it’s the combined efforts of each generation in the workplace that really gets the job done.