Leading a Multigenerational WorkforceLeadership in today’s business landscape greatly involves diversity. Normally, that means ethnic, religious, or gender differences.

However, one factor affecting our workforce, now more than ever, is the widening scope of multiple generations.

Today the workplace includes four distinct generations with different strengths, motivations, and work styles.

There are the Traditionalists (born between 1927 and 1945), The Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1965), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980), and Generation Y/Millenials (born 1980 and later)

Each generation is different from the next with unique learning and communication styles, different work-life balance needs, and different preferences in how their contributions are recognized.

Preparation for and understanding of these differences and preferences can lead to a more effective organization.

How to Lead a Multigenerational Workforce

Information Week presents four great suggestions on how managers can help bridge the gaps and help teams draw on their various perspectives to produce even more positive outcomes.

  • Begin with open communication. Many employers fail to take advantage of the benefits a multigenerational workforce can offer, because they know little about what makes each group unique. Show respect for all workers, and demonstrate your knowledge and awareness of the differences that exist in the workplace.
  • Avoid stereotypes. Be aware of any stereotypes that may exist about certain generations and seek to overcome them. For example, some believe younger workers have little loyalty to their companies and rarely work within established guidelines. Find out what employees value and base decisions on that information only.
  • Encourage collaboration. One of the greatest benefits a multigenerational work environment offers is the opportunity for employees to interact with those who differ from them and to share knowledge. That's why it's so vital to encourage cross-generational collaboration. One way of accomplishing this is to establish a mentoring program partnering less experienced employees with more-seasoned workers.
  • Remain flexible. Understanding the characteristics that define each generation will allow employers to better tailor policies and procedures to meet their needs. Members of the Traditionalist and Baby Boom Generations, for example, often have different ideas about retirement than their predecessors did. And when these workers were probed about their ideal retirement work arrangement, their most common choice was to repeatedly "cycle" between periods of work and leisure.

Not only is it helpful to integrate generations with each other for more effective teamwork, but also to learn how to relate to each one in order to become better leaders.

How does your organization bridge the generational differences between employees?