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Let’s face it, today’s workforce looks very different than those of the past—especially if you're a manager. It is now very common for employee groups to extend across many generations, making it the norm for managers to also have to manage employees whose ages span half a century within a single department. Individual roles are also shifting in a way that can introduce new tension into the workplace. An Ernst & Young survey revealed that, from 2008 to 2013, 87 percent of Generation Y/millennial managers (ages 18-32) moved into managerial roles. This trend may cause some leaders to worry that their older employees may resent their younger managers, among the other challenges that age diversity can bring.
Generational differences don't have to create a divide in the workplace. Regardless of the generational makeup of the company, managers need to view their employees as individuals with unique needs and their own personal reinforcers. To do so, assume that people want to be judged on their merits, not as part of some special generation. Managers ought to continuously seek out ways to understand why each individual exhibits certain behaviors and then identify reinforcers that are meaningful to each employee. That requires letting go of the assumption that people from the same generation have the same needs and that those needs are different from those from other generations.
The science of behavior supports that people, regardless of their age or other stereotypical labels, perform optimally when the following three things are present:
When you apply the science in this way, you will come to find the critical secret to managing across generations really is no secret and it’s available to all—the science of behavior. Managers must simply apply the tools and principles of the science to achieve positive outcomes from all employees. Sure, it's important to encourage understanding between employees of different generations so as to avoid tensions and misconceptions. But ultimately, the best strategy for managing across the generational gap is to provide the universal framework that encourages positive behavior.
To encourage high levels of collaboration between employees of all ages, managers should incorporate the following five tips.
If leaders follow these steps they will not only make employees happier in their work, but they’ll also create high performers out of employees, whether they are 20 or 60.
© Aubrey Daniels International, Inc. All rights reserved. 2019