5 Steps to Better Manage a Multigenerational Workforce

by on Feb 15, 2024

Men shaking hands

For perhaps the first time in history, the American workforce is made up of five distinct generations. This variety of life experience is an asset that, when leveraged successfully, can energize a stagnant company and lead to more successful projects, better informed decisions, and diverse market appeal.

But as a leader, it can be a challenge to manage the disparate expectations and communication styles of employees from the Silent Generation, Gen Z, and everything in between. If multigenerational challenges have arisen within your team, take action using the steps below.

Step 1: Assess yourself

The first question to ask as a leader is: which generation am I, and how does that affect my leadership style?

While the exact cutoff dates for each generation are debated, the Harvard Business Review states that the five generations were born in the following years:

  • The Silent Generation: 1925-1945
  • Baby Boomers: 1946-1964
  • Generation X: 1965-1980
  • Millennials: 1981-2000
  • Generation Z: 2001-2020

Find your birthdate on this list and do a little research into the common stereotypes – both positive and negative – for your own group. Even if you don’t feel like you are an archetype of your generation, it’s helpful to be aware of the preconceived ideas your team may have about you based on your age alone.

Step 2: Assess your team

The next step is to categorize your team by generation. Now, don’t get carried away with labels – individual differences are still going to be apparent among members of the same generation.

But as the team leader, it will be helpful for you to consider which historical events influenced your direct reports as they entered the workforce. Someone who began their career before the advent of the internet is going to have a different approach to work than someone who started working during the pandemic.

If there are ongoing patterns of tension or poor communication, look at them through this generational lens. Is your generational bias bumping up against those of your employees?

Step 3: Consider adapting to preferences where possible

Equipped with your generational knowledge, you can now engage individually with your team members to see if there’s anything about your leadership style that could be tweaked.

For example, younger employees may prefer digital communication for everything except performance reviews, while older employees may prefer a phone call on a more regular basis.

While you can’t cater to every whim, be honest with yourself about whether you’re communicating based on your own generation’s preferences rather than meeting your employees halfway. Consider sending out surveys about communication style or scheduling preferences to garner feedback.

Step 4: Communicate boundaries clearly and quickly

To state the obvious, however, you will not be able to magically appease every team member’s generational and individual preferences. When an expectation or company value is set in stone, be extremely clear about why this particular boundary is non-negotiable.

A lack of clear communication only serves to widen multigenerational gaps and increase distrust. Different generations may come to different conclusions about why the company has made a certain decision, but without open and honest leadership, all of the conclusions might be negative!

Get ahead of the grumbling with prompt and precise information regarding changes to company workflows or goals.

Step 5: Consider a formal talent development plan

If you’ve taken the above steps and are still struggling with multigenerational discord on your team, it may be time to consider a more formal plan of action.

At Teamalytics, we’ve worked with thousands of leaders over three decades on talent development. Many leaders understandably struggle to manage today’s multigenerational workforce. Our proprietary, scientifically-validated assessment tools have helped them pinpoint and resolve team dynamics that were eroding company success.

To learn more, download our free guide, “Know What It Feels Like to Work with You: The Elusive Key to Effective Leadership and Team Assessment.”