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Five Tips for Effectively Managing Multi-Generational Teams



Today’s managers face a unique challenge; they must effectively manage, motivate, and retain a workforce that consists of employees from several different generations. At first glance, it might seem an insurmountable task to successfully manage a Generation Y employee who’s fresh out of graduate school while simultaneously managing a 30-year industry veteran. When managed mindfully and purposefully, however, multi-generational teams can prove to be highly productive. Let’s consider five tips for managing a team that spans multiple generations:

Familiarize yourself with every generation. To truly understand what motivates your employees in the present, you first have to consider their past experiences. Everyone, to some degree, is shaped by their pasts. For example, Traditionalist employees– who grew up in the midst of the Great Depression– aren’t likely to be driven by the same factors that Generation Y finds highly motivating. Thus, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the unique issues that each generation faces– both at work and at home.

Stop stereotyping. Generational stereotyping is common, but that doesn’t mean it’s productive. To be an effective manager of a cross-generational team, you must first let go of your preconceived notions of each generation. For example, you might have an extremely tech-savvy Traditionalist on your team and you might also have a Gen Y employee who prefers paperback books over electronics. Thebottom line is this: don’t assume you already know your employees based on their dates of birth. Get to know them as people, not simply members of a certain generation.

Embrace similarities. The differences between the generations have been well-documented. What’s less emphasized, however, are the similarities between employees of all ages. For example, most employees– regardless of generation– would place a high value on family time and job security. It’s important for managers to emphasize these similarities; doing so will help to boost employee morale and promote a sense of cohesiveness.

Create opportunities for mentoring. Creating opportunities for collaboration between the generations is an excellent way to promote a feeling of harmony and cohesiveness across a multi-generational team. For example, consider pairing a Gen Y employee with a Baby Boomer. The mentoring relationship can go both ways; the Gen Y employee can teach the Baby Boomer about the power of social media in business, while the Baby Boomer can discuss how industry trends have changed over the past few decades. These mentoring relationships tend to work well, as the competitive edge that exists between members of the same generation is typically not a factor in cross-generational relationships.

Keep the lines of communication open. Let’s face it: conflict in the workplace is natural and will happen from time to time. When it occurs between the generations, the first thing to ask yourself is this: is this conflict truly a result of generational differences or something else?Don’t just assume that every conflict is the result of the generation gap. Once you determine the source of the conflict, consider what triggered it. Does one generation feel like they lack a voice in the workplace? Ask your employees for feedback and really listen to their responses. Creating policies and procedures that take the needs of every generation into consideration is key to motivating a multi-generational workforce.

When done effectively, managing a team that spans multiple generations can be a rewarding experience for managers and employees alike. In fact, organizations that embrace generational diversity typically experience greater employee retention and increased productivity. For more tips and strategies regarding managing multi-generational teams, contact us today. We are a boutique staffing firm in the San Diego area specializing in accounting, finance, and administrative positions. Allow us to help you locate top talent for your growing company.