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Managing Multi-Generational Workforces: Insight from Profiles and Dr. Peter Cappelli

Posted by Anh Tran on Feb 27, 2013 7:45:00 AM

multi generational workforceFor the past 18 months, the Profiles Research Institute conducted an ongoing study to help organizations bridge employee generational gaps

In the past, managers were generally older than the people they managed. In recent years, we have seen this is no longer the case. Research clearly shows that this presents some unique challenges and that these managers need help managing multi-generational workforces to avoid conflict and a decrease in staff morale.

With Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Andrew Mason of Groupon, Pete Cashmore of Mashable, becoming a billionaire and respected CEO is no longer a job for the older, more experienced person. These men all founded their companies and became billionaires before they even reached their 30th birthdays.

To date, organizations are seeing the benefits of hiring the younger, enthusiastic candidates with their hunger to learn and their motivation to progress in their careers is evident.


Wharton professor Peter Cappelli, keynote speaker at our upcoming 2012 World Conference, discusses the interesting challenge of younger leaders managing olders workers.


Now four generations are attempting to co-exist in the workplace. All people possess different work and thinking styles, as well as different levels of technology knowledge. Here at Profiles International, we undertook research in an attempt to uncover the most common sources of conflict between these generations of employees and best practices for dealing with them. Two particular questions stuck out in our research.

Q1. In my organization, managers receive training to understand employees of different generations to effectively keep them engaged.

A shockingly small 30% of managers receive training to effectively deal with these situations. Its crucial to understand what motivates your employees, all ages and backgrounds are motivated by different factors. Managing a multi-generational workforce may not be easy, but these organizational structures are inevitable.

Q2. In my organization, managers or leaders ask people about their needs and preferences.

One third of managers fail to ask employees about their needs and preferences. 

In order for an employee to work with a driven and motivated attitude, they must feel that their needs are taken care of, that they are benefitting in some way. If managers do not understand what drives productivity, how can they expect productive employees?

Research results also show a lack of acknowledgement by managers regarding the fact that these generational gaps exist. It is impossible to understand and meet the needs or each and every employee, but most if not all employees want to be heard and know that their opinions matters.

This is where WIIFM comes into play. We covered this topic in recent article. WIIFM stands for "What's In It For Me". Employees need to know that "something is in it for them" when they are doing their job. By ensuring your employees understand what the benefits are for them. They are likely to be more engaged in what they are doing.

Here are some simple tips for to make sure you portray the WIIFM factors to employees

  • Communicate -  Talk to your employees. Find out what drives them, if they have any issues or conflicts in their workplace. Some people may be shy to bring attention to a particular issue, so make sure you have a confidential comment box/email for people to use.
  • Include - Every company has overall goals. Every employee has goals, personal and professional. Once you have communicated with an employee, portray to them what the company goal is, and how they fit in with that. Whether its the possibility of a promotion or just telling the employee, "You're a great member of this team, or "We couldnt have done it without you."
  • Be genuine - Do not give false praise, these people are adults and treat them so. When they do a good job, tell them. They need to feel comfortable to come to you with work related issues if you want them to confide in you about what motivates them.
  • Be fair - You may have employees that you have something in common with, whether it be; Alumni from a particular school, a hobbie or even living locations. Do not favor people based on these things. Do not favor people in the same generation as yourself.
Employees are the backbone your company, if you want them to work well together, get to know them! Be observant of generational gaps in your organization and make a plan to understand how they work individually and as a team. With these factors taken into consideration, you are lining yourself up for success!


Topics: Workplace Management, Training and Development in Business, Employee Retention

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    Rick Yvanovich
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    With the Profiles International South East Asia Blog, it is our mission to help organizational leaders and HR professionals improve their performance and workforce productivity. 

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