Managing generations, Part 2

Last time, workplace trends expert Lisa Aldisert outlined what each generation in your IT department holds dear. For the baby boomers, it's security and relevance; for Generation X, it's work/life balance; for Generation Y, it's meaningful work.

The key to managing multiple generations successfully is understanding their mindset first and trying to meet their needs second. As she noted last week, one management style does not fit all. "Assess what the [generational] mix is with your staff, you may see it top heavy in one of those categories," Aldisert says. "Are you really thinking about work in the context of what this generation values?"

For example, the baby boomers may be fearful that their knowledge may be obsolete. One way to combat that is to pair the person up with a younger staffer as a mentor and vice versa. "In any technical business a reality has to be that the youngest people might be more knowledgeable about some things than the oldest," Aldisert says. "Flip flop mentoring, have them mentor the older folks and they can be mentoring the younger on other issues. This is an opportunity for those workers to share their legacy with the younger workers. Their story can be very important to the young people."

Another way to reach out to older workers is to continue your investment in their training and professional development. Find out what training would be meaningful to them and make it a reality. Doing this will remind older workers that you know they're valuable assets.

Here are some additional tips from Aldisert on successfully communicating across generations:

  • Learn to distinguish the differences in worldview. For example, seasoned workers may be more resigned to working in a structured hierarchy, while younger employees may be suspicious of hierarchy.

  • Proactively bring the different generations together in a more formal environment. Host a brown bag lunch to brainstorm ideas for developing a new client strategy, for example.

  • Appreciate the difference between team and authoritarian orientation, Younger workers will more likely appreciate teamwork and collaboration vs. a more traditional authoritarian approach to work.

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