Leaders in modern workplaces face a distinct challenge: managing a multigenerational workforce. Companies commonly have four generations represented in their staff, including Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. In some cases, members of the Silent Generation are also presented, bringing a fifth generation into the mix.
While multigenerational workforces aren’t inherently new, the differences between these generations can dramatically impact team dynamics. Additionally, they each have unique expectations in regard to how they’re led. As a result, adapting leadership styles is typically necessary to manage multigenerational teams.
Here’s a look at the unique characteristics and working styles of the various generations, as well as how leaders can adapt their leadership style to support multigenerational teams effectively.
Understanding Multigenerational Diversity
While every person is undeniably unique, each generation is broadly associated with specific characteristics, attitudes, and preferences, particularly when it comes to the workplace. The Silent Generation and Baby Boomers often have features in common. They favor hard work and are highly loyal. Additionally, they respect hierarchies and organizational structures while also preferring direct communication methods like face-to-face conversations.
Gen X workers are highly independent and exceptionally adaptable. They appreciate workplaces with a degree of flexibility and favor leaders who offer reasonable amounts of autonomy. Gen X also tends to be peer-oriented, and they favor direct communication styles but are comfortable with tech-based approaches.
Millennials are typically considered the first digital native generation, and they’re highly comfortable with technology. Often, they prefer collaborative approaches to work, which is a stark contrast to the independent nature of Gen X. Also, they may favor digital communication over in-person or over-the-phone alternatives and are highly purpose-driven.
Generation Z is also comprised of digital natives, with the preference for digital communications over alternatives being incredibly strong. Social responsibility is a high priority for professionals in this generation, and they favor diverse, inclusive environments that provide room for personal development.
Adapting Leadership Styles to Support Multigenerational Teams
When leading multigenerational teams, leaders encounter specific challenges. Preferred communication methods can differ, making information sharing difficult. Additionally, generational differences when it comes to commitment and work ethic can cause conflict, and preferences regarding how they’re led can lead to difficulties.
In order to succeed, leaders need flexible communication styles. A variety of channels need to be available, ensuring some solutions align with the preferences of each generation. However, it’s wise to create standardized routes for specific types of information sharing, centralizing relevant details to make them broadly accessible.
Leaders must also adjust how they provide direction or information to various team members. Gen X, Baby Boomers, and Silent Generation members are often comfortable with a degree of bluntness as long as the information they require is provided. Younger generations often need a coaching-style mentality instead, as well as opportunities for dialog to make the process feel more collaborative and create an environment where asking questions feels like an option.
Ultimately, leaders need to consider the unique needs of their team members and adjust their leadership style to align it as required, all while outlining specific standards or expectations to make sure that information flows freely. That ensures all employees get what they need while supporting seamless collaboration, resulting in better outcomes.
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