How to Manage 5 Generations Remotely

How to Manage 5 Generations Remotely

How to Manage 5 Generations Remotely

This is the first time in the history of the workplace where teenagers can be working alongside employees in their seventies and sometimes even eighties, as championed by companies such as B and Q and some of the supermarkets.  Organizations certainly look very different nowadays with managers in their twenties often being responsible for team members in their fifties and sixties. 

Even in normal circumstances, managing this diverse age range can bring with it a number of challenges, such as more senior staff resenting being told what to do by someone with much less experience and perceived wisdom.  Sometimes the younger manager may lack confidence and suffer from imposter syndrome, knowing that some of his or her team know much more about the company and its clients than they do.  Frequently the older generation will complain about the lack of respect and standards of the younger team members, whereas in turn the Millennials may get frustrated with older colleagues sometimes appearing to lack motivation, engagement or ambition, or not being tech-savvy.  Younger, single managers may not appreciate the challenges of working parents who are trying to juggle the day job with home schooling during lockdowns.

The labels and dates can vary, but here are the generational stereotypes and their character traits, some of which are outlined by the Johnsons in their book on managing conflict between the generations at work:

  • The traditionalist (born before 1946) who often doesn’t seem to want to retire and tends to be loyal, values stability, is respectful of authority, stubbornly independent, has an excellent work ethic, dependable, with advanced communication and interpersonal skills.
  • The Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 – 1964) who tend to be well-educated, question authority, have excellent teamwork skills, and thrive on adrenaline-charged assignments.

Research suggests that both the above groups do not like to be micromanaged, will often resist change, and crave training and development.

  • Generation X (1965 – 1980) who are supposed to be only out for themselves and highly cynical, nicknamed the Latchkey Generation, often with working or divorced parents, independent, family-focused, intolerant of bureaucracy, critical, hardworking, socially responsible, known for fairness and being mediators, and wanting flexibility and a work-life balance.

According to research the two groups below like to be given very SMART objectives and instructions:

  • Generation Y (born 1981-2000), the Millenials, or the Entitled Generation, who are influenced by technology and doting parents, highly socialized, loyal, technologically savvy, socially responsible, independent, valuing stability and team working, requiring feedback on performance and looking for work-life balance.
  • Generation Z or the Linksters (born after 2000), addicted to technology, in particular the smartphone, the Facebook Crowd, influenced by a media-saturated world, closely tied to parents, tolerant of alternative lifestyles, involved in green causes and social activism, adept at Marketing and alert to business trends.

With the recurring lockdowns and need for more homeworking, some managers are having to manage these 5 generations remotely.  In order to alleviate inter-generational tension and improve interpersonal relationships, HR and senior managers can understand these generational characteristics, team behaviour and communication styles and implement the following 10 actions:

1. Hold very regular ‘face to face’ virtual 1:1s with your team members to identify how they really are coping with lockdown, and ask them what additional support they need; don’t assume that the older generations want more or less work, or that the younger generations want promotion.  Many employees have re-evaluated their priorities as a result of coronavirus, for example, some parents of teenagers realising that their children have suddenly become completely independent and their worlds are revolving around screens, meaning that the parents want to spend more time working than less!

2. Invest in interactive and enjoyable Equality and Diversity Training to identify and overcome unconscious bias and banish the generational labels, misconceptions and differences in order to treat everyone fairly and as individuals.

3. Build effective working relationships:  Even if you are managing someone much older than you, view the working relationship as a two-way partnership, involving the team member in decision making.  Similarly engage more with Generation X as they tend to state that they want to be involved in more debate.

4. Find out what motivates, interests and engages your workforce by investing in Talent Assessments, such as 360 Feedback to identify how managers are perceived, and Personality Questionnaires to understand the reason why individuals do things and how their motivations and strengths relate to those of their colleagues.  This is highly relevant across all generational groups and will assist the different generations in identifying why certain people have the impact on them that they do.  Real issues in relationships can also be identified in order to tailor behaviour to communicate in more flexible and effective ways and to resolve intergenerational conflicts.

5. When reviewing the company’s vision and values ask what are the key issues and drivers in each generation and tailor your recruitment and talent management processes accordingly.

6. Encourage internal or reverse Mentoring by pairing up younger, more tech savvy individuals with traditionalists and the Baby Boomer generation as this can have many reciprocal benefits, such as the exchange of technical knowledge and business practices.  In general workers are more open to advice from groups outside their peers.

7. Change Management  and Stress Management Training can help individuals from all generations to work out their priorities and goals in order to have more of a work-life balance.   Post pandemic the future of work looks set to involve a hybrid model with much more flexible and remote working.

8. Conduct regular HR and pulse surveys to understand your employees’ demographics and needs and the impact they are having on your company culture; then you can ensure that all generations and teams are aligned with the business strategy.

9. With this data, develop incentive plans that reflect where your employees’ motivations lie, for example the Generation Y workers may want even more flexible working, whereas Generation X may be more interested in private healthcare.  Satisfy the ambitious Millennials by giving them special projects, in particular those involving technology and group work.

Despite all the research and advice, it is important to remember that each individual has a unique set of values and experiences and that each generation’s set of attitudes, behaviours and motivators are only tendencies that have been observed in particular age groups. Character traits such as loyalty, conscientiousness or laziness appear in all generational groups. 

Identifying an individual’s key strengths, motivators and development areas with psychometric tests and 360 Feedback and developing them with Training and Coaching will continue to span all generational groups for the benefit of the business, especially when their priorities and motivators may well have changed since the onset of the pandemic.

Be kind, stay safe, stay positive!

About Jill Maidment

Executive Coaching and Mentoring, Career and Transition Coaching, Business Coaching, Resilience Coaching, Life Coaching 

Executive Assessment, 360 Feedback, Face to Face 360 Feedback, Talent Management and Succession Planning

Leadership Training, High Performance Leadership Development, Management Training, Leadership and Management Team Development, Board Facilitation, Coaching Academy