Tips for Managing Multiple Generations in the Workplace

Amy Marcum | Insperity

Based in part on the latest medical advances and an increased focus on overall wellness, individuals are living longer and delaying retirement as a result. This has helped create a more age-diverse workforce than ever before.

 According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 41% of working Americans plan to retire at age 66 or older. This may lead to necessary adjustments for many companies as some workplaces may soon contain five generations of employees, if they do not already.

While diversity in business can bring a myriad of benefits, including a variety of skills, opinions and experiences, it can also present challenges. Generational differences have the potential to create conflict among employees due to differing views, changing communications techniques or updated workplace norms.

Below are four tips to help managers successfully navigate these challenges and lead a productive, age-diverse team.

Understand the Workforce

Managers should familiarize themselves with the key differentiators of the generations they manage, and recognize how these differences can affect workers individually. For example, if leaders understand how the average millennial prefers to communicate or how Baby Boomers typically like to receive feedback, they may be able to tailor their management style to these preferences. This basic understanding can provide a strong starting place, but managers should still take time to learn employee’s individual preferences to maximize impact.

Encourage Mentoring

Younger generations generally have a desire to continue learning through professional development opportunities. To meet this need, company leaders may consider facilitating mentorship opportunities between established employees and more junior workers to provide chances to learn and build knowledge firsthand. These programs can also increase employee engagement, build teamwork and present junior staffers with new growth opportunities. By satisfying the need for professional development and creating a path for newer employees to progress in their career, managers can help diffuse potential tensions between generations and showcase the advantages of teamwork.

Practice Adaptability

Workplace adaptability is a core skill that can serve managers well, especially when leading and communicating with a diverse team. Individual preferences related to communication style and delivery may vary depending on the generation. For example, seasoned staffers may favor more traditional forms of communication, such as email, whereas less-seasoned professionals may opt for instant messaging platforms. By staying responsive to these preferences, leaders can better serve their teams.

Resolve Conflict Quickly

While transparency is a valuable quality for any leader, it is especially important when managing multiple generations. If conflict arises, managers should respond swiftly and communicate their expectations clearly and directly to the individuals involved. By avoiding or delaying action, leaders may worsen the situation and cause a greater divide between employees. The goal of any office is to foster a mutual respect between employees and leaders. As such, differences in the workplace should be appreciated and welcomed, but any negative conflict should be identified immediately and addressed appropriately.

Managing multiple generations can present a range of challenges for business leaders, but fostering a diversity of ideas and opinions is vital to the success of any company. By preparing for any conflict before issues arise, managers can help ensure they are reaping the benefits of a multigenerational workforce, resulting in a stronger organization.  

Amy Marcum is the senior human resource specialist with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

Photo credit: