Business NSW peak lobby group
Managing people

The value of a multigenerational workforce

Today’s workforce is diverse and made up of many different generations, and leading multigenerational teams is a must for any modern manager.

Managers must make decisions that are in line with their workplace culture and create a cohesive work environment that engages employees from a wide range of ages, various backgrounds, education and life experiences, work styles and goals, to ensure they’re getting ultimate performance from each member of staff.

Leading multigenerational teams

Age diversity is a reality in today’s workplaces. Workers are stereotypically described as older team members (traditionalists and baby boomers) who are portrayed as loyal and hardworking, but ‘dinosaurs’ when it comes to innovation and technology. Younger employees (Generation Xs and millennials) are viewed as innovative, but disrespectful, lazy and egocentric.

Popular press would have us believe there’s a huge generational divide and many managers bemoan the age differences and the perceived differing work styles, expectations and beliefs.  

However the reality, according to more and more research, is that generations are different in some ways, but similar in many more, and generational differences have subtle impacts, rather than dramatic conflict. The important challenge is to identify and make the most of those differences. 

There’s little doubt that to lead teams effectively and manage a workplace with generational diversity presents its own unique challenges. As mature adults remain employed, we increasingly need to understand the strengths and challenges inherent in multigenerational workplaces and find ways to leverage age diversity. 

Workers of all ages add remarkable value to your business and transferring knowledge across generations will depend on building relationships and communication approaches that work for all employee groups. 

Understand each generation

The first step to improving the ability to lead is to identify staff who are considered traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y and consider them in light of their stereotypical profile described below. 

Traditionalists (born between 1922 and 1945) display strengths of dedication and loyalty. Their weakness can be their resistance to technology and workplace changes. 

Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are team focused and service-oriented. They willingly work hard today for what they will benefit from in the future. A weakness is boomers can get left behind on some technology, failing to see how it could be applied to their organisation.

Generation X (born between 1965 and 1978) are keen to use the latest technology and online information sharing sources to get the job done better and faster. Their drive for immediate access to information keeps the organisations they work for ‘on trend’. They seek instant recognition and esteem from their co-workers. Unfortunately, colleagues more senior, in either age or seniority, can see them as impatient and arrogant.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y (born between 1979 and 1996), are confident and the most tech-savvy of all age groups. They’re early adopters of technology and online sharing platforms. They like to work ‘live time’ by sourcing information online instead of enduring the time lag of emailing and waiting for a reply. However, their more relaxed way of working can be interpreted as disrespectful by more experienced colleagues. 

Motivate for maximum performance

Each generation has a particular way of working and strives for different things. To get the very best from each employee, you need to know what motivates each group. Below are stereotypical profiles that can help you better understand generally what motivates different generations.

Traditionalists respond to top-down management. When management gives tasks or desired outcomes, they aim to please or impress their superiors. They're motivated by written or verbal recognition from their superiors, peers and colleagues. 

Boomers consider relationship building important. They do very well working in teams, and like to be rewarded for their loyalty. They're motivated by opportunities for professional development for financial reward. 

Gen X's value autonomy, so giving them business outcomes to achieve works well, whereas telling them how to achieve the goals doesn't. They like to develop skills and are committed to advancing their own career.

Working for the good of the organisation is secondary to their own path. Selling the personal benefits of achieving a task works well, rather than selling the task around 'taking one for the team'. They're motivated by development and financial rewards that give them a better life.

Gen Ys seek being valued for their individual contribution. Work-life balance is a priority, so they seek to do their job efficiently, using digital technology as a tool and a resource. They're motivated by recognition and a career that betters the world.

Do you need the latest policies and resources at your fingertips? My Business Workplace has over 200 documents ready to download. 

Your HR sidekick

From contracts of employment to letters of termination and everything in between, My Business Workplace has got you covered.

Found this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the best business tips and articles straight to your inbox.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter. You're one step closer to receiving more insightful information to help better your business.

We take your privacy seriously and by subscribing to our newsletter you agree to the terms of our Privacy Policy available below.