Generational Management 

If you’re managing more than a few people, there’s a good chance they might cross generations and guess what, those guys have different needs. I believe strongly that its not up to them to change, its up to you as a leader to adapt and understand those needs so you can get the best from all of them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…generational management.

This week I attended a great talk at Exeter University’s Business Leaders Forum. Guest speaker was none other than successful investor and Dragon’s Den’s Deborah Meaden. Her topic of choice was ‘How business might look in twenty years time’ and her number one challenge; generational management. It certainly struck a chord with me.

We currently have three generations in the workplace:

Baby Boomers – Born from ’46 to ‘64
Gen X – ’65 – ‘77
Gen Y – ’78 onwards

The BB’s are and always have been driven by a competitive, work till you drop attitude – it was a thing of the times. Gen X are a little more cautious and strive for greater work-life balance. Then there is Gen Y – these guys like feedback, have a thirst for learning and are driven by technology.

You can bet that some of the BB’s think the younger gen are lazy and tech obsessed while the younger gen think their elders are stubborn and stuck in their ways. A challenge indeed when you want them to work as a team.

If you manage teams which transcend generations its critical you get them talking and understanding each other. The young guys should seek the wisdom and experience of their elders while the older members of the team must open their minds to the fresh new perspectives from their younger counterparts. Sounds easy doesn’t it 😉

Here’s are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Start measuring by results and not by the way people get there. As a leader you’ll need to adapt to the different styles and work methods of these generations. Your younger team members may be driven by working at certain times of the day, perhaps when they feel most productive. They may prefer new locations (yes that coffee shop down the road really can be a legitimate place to work). They are probably working at their desks less and less (this is the mobile generation). Have you adapted the routines and structure you once had? Do you trust your team if you can’t see them at their desk? These are the changes you’ll need to make if you want to succeed with a Gen Y workforce. Interestingly a lot of the time my guys are now working at our clients because we’re adapting not only to generational changes but industry ones too. Todays work climate is about collaboration and teamwork more so than ten years ago. We’ve taken notice and continue to adapt to our client’s and staff’s needs.

Communication is something that gets written about a lot, probably because it easy to empathise with. Gen X and BB’s preferring email and phone calls compared to the more instant messaging of the Gen Y’ers. One thing I did in my own business last year (being that we’re fairly heavily Y biased) is setup a couple of WhatsApp groups, one for the entire company and one for the sales team. The guys share stories, have banter and help each other out everyday and so far I’d say its been a great success. This is mixed with the more traditional email circulars to the business, regular team meetings and one to one reviews and catchups to ensure everyone is catered for.

Another thing I’ve learnt is the thirst for learning that Gen Yer’s have. We’ve subscribed to Lynda.com, an online video training site where you can find out about everything from how to read google analytics to improving your communication skills. We also have a budget set aside for conferences and training and encourage the team to seek out the ones they feel would provide most value and then make a case for being sent on them. How are you investing in your team’s development because if you don’t, you can be sure they will find someone who will?

One final point – make sure everyone has a voice. A leader needs to listen to their people and make strong decisions, calculating the risk and reward at all times. Your BB’s may have been there before and you should seek to use that experience. Your young guns might challenge the norm, help you innovate and take you to places you’ve not been before. Your job is to make the best of the amazing and culturally diverse world we live in so your business can flourish over the next twenty years.

Your Say

Have you had experiences of managing across generations? Positive or Negative, we’re keen to hear so we can all learn.

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