Multigenerational Leadership: Drive Performance and Engagement Across Generations

Multigenerational Leadership:  Drive Performance and Engagement Across Generations

Lead across generations

How do you view multi-generational dynamics at work? Do you see new challenges or new opportunities? According to a study by LiveCareer, 89% of respondents considered generational diversity in the workplace a positive element of work. However, in that same study, 78% believe a multi generational workplace can lead to disruptive conflict.

Multigenerational disruption is not new. What is new are the preferences and shifting workplace expectations of new generations. It is important to note that generational lines tend to be more blurred than segmented. However, we do know that a one size fits all leadership strategy will not work in today's workplace.

How can leaders today meet diverse workplace expectations and needs across all generations? Understanding the variations of mindsets, values, and performance drivers that are important to all generations will help us lead others more effectively.

multigenerational team

Generational differences stem from different shared experiences as people grew up at different times. Each generation grew up, especially during their formative teenage years, with the same economy, the same parenting and educational trends, the same technology. See our blog Multigenerational Leadership: What You Need to Know to understand more about how mindsets developed for each generation.

Boomers (born early ‘40s to early ‘60s)

Boomers are not looking to challenge what already works, including traditional hierarchies, office policies, or technology. Some are contemplating retirement or pursuing a second career to follow their passions. They have loyally paid their dues and see work as a means to an end, meaning their lifestyles are established and work supports their future plans.

They have been on the front line for decades, leading transformational advancements in technology and communications. They wear their tenure and experience like a badge of honor.

Boomers have been loyal to their employers throughout their careers. Reciprocally, loyalty from the company is a performance driver for boomers. Once assured of that mutual loyalty, they will focus on driving business. They thrive when specific success metrics and deadlines are established. Boomers welcome new challenges as long as the skills to be successful are discussed up front

To simplify the Boomer mindset: WORK IS LIFE. They often equate hard work and success to the number of hours an employee puts in at the office, collaborating in person with colleagues.

How to lead Boomers effectively

Leverage their value by leaning into their depth of experience and vast professional networks. Strategically coordinate group opportunities to learn from Boomers, for example. Ask them to share lessons learned, specifically what went well and what didn't. Place Boomers in mentoring positions to develop newer employees and proactively ensure business continuity.

Find new and important opportunities to contribute, giving them purpose and respectfully acknowledging their experience. Leverage their hard working and disciplined work style to see important tasks or projects through. They appreciate being recognized and acknowledged for their contributions, and do not want to be overlooked in making future contributions. Boomers now value workplace flexibility while contributing to organizational success, if possible. Allow them to structure their work hours. They will appreciate some flexibility and still put in the hours needed.

Always articulate detailed objectives, success metrics, and deadlines for assignments. They will be on a mission to perform at the highest level and exceed expectations. Celebrate Boomers' commitment to the team, organization or goals. And, if coaching is needed, a clear framework that provides actionable feedback will result in the highest impact. Present your Boomers with a challenging assignment and opportunity to grow. Discuss the skills they already have that will make them successful, and the opportunities to develop a new skill set.

Gen-Xers (born mid ‘60s to early ‘80s)

Gen X prioritizes hard work and success, often equating it to career growth and financial stability. Gen Xers are open to tech innovation if it offers convenience rather than just being the next cool thing. They are at a powerful crossroads in their careers with a depth of experience, but also yearn to learn, evolve, and transform.

Gen X appreciates having workplace independence that allows for empowered decision making and personal satisfaction. Work is important, but personal needs, interest, and family are important too.

Gen X thrives on the opportunity to be challenged both personally and professionally.

An easy way to remember the Gen X mindset: They tend to LIVE TO WORK, meaning Gen X has amassed substantive experience and has made personal sacrifices to meet their professional responsibilities.

How to lead Gen X effectively

Leverage their remaining tenure and infuse them into future strategies of your organization. Capitalize on tapping into their networks and knowledge. Where do they go to get what they need and who can get the job done? Appreciate their willingness to expand their professional skill sets by offering opportunities to learn, evolve responsibilities, and acquire new skills. They will challenge the status quo and seek opportunities to upskill to advance their careers.

Give them independence, autonomy and space to get the work done. They don't appreciate being micromanaged. Rely on their strong disposition to be self-reliant. They feel respected when others value their time. Schedule meetings rather than popping in unannounced. They prefer to be prepared for the discussion in advance to be efficient with time. Generation X values a balance between meaningful work and personal life needs.

Being able to chart the course and decide when to engage others motivates Gen Xers, and provides opportunities to validate their business building skills. They also want their leaders' confidence in their abilities to achieve business objectives independently. Provide Gen Xers with transformational projects like innovating products or services, or enhancing how business is traditionally done. Leverage their desire to be consistently challenged and to evolve skill sets. Drive their desire to deliver real time solutions that measurably impact the organization. Schedule regular check ins to measure against the baseline and celebrate successes.

Another powerful Gen X motivator is to encourage ongoing learning. Co-create an individual learning plan with your Gen Xers. Ask what they want to learn, how it adds value to their work effort, and when they can fit it into their schedule. Then, create the time, space, and support for them to follow through and apply what they learned.

boomer and millennial

Millennials/Gen-Y (born mid ‘80s to mid-late ‘90s)

Millennials, or Gen Y, are at a pivotal place in their careers. They have significant experience, but also a passion for lifelong learning. Now in leadership roles, Millennials are a critical conduit between generations striving to meet the expectations of their Boomer and Gen X leaders while managing the new rules of engagement that Gen Z brings to the workplace.

Millennials aspire to work for companies with a higher purpose than simply generating a profit. Understand their definition of career satisfaction because they will job hop if their needs are not met. They are confident navigating tech changes and will promote better ways to get work done.

Millennials value being included and recognized for contributing to the overall purpose of an organization. When their work is aligned with a cause, they will place a significant focus on getting the results needed. Millennials take pride in connecting Boomers and Gen X with Gen Z.

The Millennial's mindset is WORK FOR A PURPOSE, meaning their responsibilities must align with a greater impact.

How to lead Millennials effectively

Help them connect their work to a greater purpose and tap into their ability to find new, more efficient ways of working. Recognize that Millennials are operating at the most important intersection of business managing up and down. Acknowledge, coach, and encourage this critical role as the bridge between generations. Millennials need unfailing support from their younger colleagues and to be empowered by their more experienced leaders to achieve business goals.

When you need to energize an initiative or invigorate a burnt out workforce, remind Millennials of the greater purpose and place them in a group setting to serve as a powerful motivators. Take time to show your support for Millennials by checking in regularly, like once a week. This is not to micromanage, but rather to keep them focused on the WHY. Identify challenges and remove barriers to progress. Include them when brainstorming new approaches to work and ask for their ideas. They will seek every opportunity to work smarter and not harder to manage their stress, protect their time, and maximize productivity.

Show up for them at both critical, professional and personal moments. Invest time in getting to know your millennials. Ask questions like what do they enjoy outside of work? What does family life look like? What is the newest thing they are into? Work on seeing the whole person. Combine having fun at work and lifelong learning. When your team needs to learn something new, ask Millennials to research and prepare a fun way to teach others.

Leaders can also show they are invested in Millennials by prioritizing timely and meaningful feedback so that they can consistently learn, apply, and improve. They crave unique, challenging, and fun work assignments where they can access learning experiences along the way.

Appreciate their need to understand the why. Be prepared to proactively answer the why. Why am I the one assigned? Why are we doing this? Why does this bring value? Why will this make me better at my job? You get the picture.

Gen-Z (late ‘90s on)

Gen Z will comprise 30% of the workforce by 2030. Their career paths are non-linear, gathering creative and innovative work experiences that align with their preferences. A generation of entrepreneurs labeled tech savvy digital natives, they lead the gig economy, a labor market characterized by short turn contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.

Being tethered to technology 24/7 has given them an interesting skill set. Their lifestyles place a high value on the efficient use of time and the ability to work from anywhere. Yet they seek work environments focused on human dynamics, valuing inclusiveness, mental health, and work life harmony.

They want to be involved in as much as possible and enjoy working on multiple projects simultaneously. They approached the human side of work in the same way, exhibiting detailed knowledge of a variety of social causes.

For Gen Z, they WORK TO LIVE, meaning that where they spend their time must meet their short time priorities.

How to lead Gen Z effectively

Empower them as ZEOs, the next generation of leaders, to gain a competitive advantage with their entrepreneurial mindset and creativity. Don't underestimate their ideas and contributions. They are innovative with a tech savviness that generates efficiencies and productivity. Gen Z wants to be mentored, not just managed. Mentoring opportunities serve as a social support system and provide shortcuts or time hacks that achieve the work to live mindset.

Give them a platform to introduce advancements that make your organization a great place to work. Let them introduce new tech solutions or advocate ways to improve mental health

They are truth seekers with an excellent aptitude to find information. They are immediately turned off by anything that does not appear authentic, honest and transparent. Blend human connection and work environments. If you have a remote workforce, set up virtual social events. If you're in the office, arrange events for social relationships to develop and deepen. If they feel respected, they will reciprocate. Demonstrate respect and trust in their ability to do the work. Empower them to be to be digital nomads where possible and offer the opportunity to work from anywhere while contributing to business objectives.

Help build Gen Zers confidence at work. Assign several smaller, independent projects that will serve as quick wins for them, then gradually increase the scope and visibility of assignments over time. They are motivated by inclusive work environments that share the desire to make the world a better place and push for dynamic changes. Ask your Gen Z employees to plan a community service or volunteer event. Consider implementing a VTO day (volunteer time off) where employees get a volunteer day off with pay.

They are inspired and motivated by face to face collaboration and constructive feedback on an ongoing basis. While they desire formal learning, they really want formal mentoring upon their arrival. Connect Gen Z employees with a mentor, perhaps a Millennial who was in the same role a few years earlier. Utilize a peer to peer mentor program to provide Gen Zers with the in-person feedback and collaboration they crave.

In Conclusion

Driving performance across generations is as unique as the generations themselves. There is no one size fits all solution for every generation in the workplace. This is a critical insight for leaders. Leaders must find ways to embrace each generation's values, adapt to their differences, and focus on achieving shared goals. The result is a high performing culture that employers want to be a part of.

Related Module:

Building Multigenerational Connections