How to Handle the Generational Shift in the Workplace

Julie Shenkman
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As Baby Boomers start to age out of the workforce in larger numbers, HR departments are seeing a generational shift. In many companies, employees range in age from new college graduates to experienced professionals who are nearing retirement. Managing the transition effectively can help you minimize conflict and create a more productive environment.

Modern businesses are working with employees that come from four distinct generations. Baby Boomers, the oldest group, were born in 1964 or earlier. At the opposite end of the spectrum are Millennials, who were born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s. In the middle are Generation X and Generation Y. Each group has distinct ideas and working styles, which makes it essential for HR professionals to take an active role in creating a cohesive workforce.

Offer Additional Training

The Internet is an ever-present force in modern business — one that can present problems during the generational shift. As more businesses move toward a heavier social media and Internet presence, older workers may feel left out. Millennial workers are often comfortable learning and adopting a new technology, while Baby Boomers may struggle to keep up. Specialized training in emerging technology can help all of your workers feel confident and capable. To avoid making older employees feel singled out, consider offering training sessions online or outside of business hours.

Understand Generational Motivations

As the generational shift in the workplace continues to progress, it is crucial for HR professionals to understand the attitudes and motivations of each generation. In order to handle a multi-generational workforce, you must gain insight into their psyches. New research shows that Millennial workers may be lacking in traditional leadership skills, while Baby Boomers are more open-minded than Generation X employees. Younger employees often respond well to flexibility, while older workers may prefer structure and stability. Once you have insight into each generation, offer training to managers and supervisors throughout your company. Provide resources for conflict resolution, and help managers find ways to use each generation's strengths to benefit the company.

Create a Mentoring Program

A lack of understanding is one of the common problems in workplaces that are undergoing a generational shift. Older workers might feel that Millennials are too unfocused, while younger workers might not understand why Generation X does not seem to grasp the power of technology. A mentoring program can help bridge the gaps created by the generational shift. By matching older and younger employees, you can foster relationships and understanding. While it is not realistic to expect a program to overcome the generational differences, it can help make workers be more open to each other's ideas.

The generational shift presents a unique challenge for HR professionals. As you navigate the dramatic age range of employees in a multi-generational workforce, education and collaboration are crucial. In the end, your efficient guidance can pave the way for a more open and understanding workplace.


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