Young entrepreneurs striving to build a profitable business, manage a team, and market to the masses might overlook one interesting fact about business ownership today: This is the first time in history that five generations of workers could be coexisting under the same company roof.
We all know the problems that can arise when multiple people with different personalities and diverse ways of solving problems try to develop a solution to a problem: each person believes his way of problem solving is best and, ultimately, it takes a lot of work – and numerous headaches – to get things done.
New company owners hiring teams of multi-generational employees are facing this conflict, but with strategic planning can work through the differences and create a cohesive group.
Father and daughter team Larry and Meagan Johnson, owners of The Johnson Group, make a business out of teaching organizations key ways to strengthen their companies and increase productivity. Their new book, Generation Inc. – From Boomers To Linksters: Managing the Conflict Between Generations At Work, discusses how businesses can improve and grow stronger by utilizing the skills each generation brings to the company table.
These generations include:
- The Traditional Generation, born before 1945
- Baby Boomers, born from 1946-1964
- Generation X, born from 1965-1980
- Generation Y, born from 1981-1994
- Linksters, born after 1995
Each of the above groups bring to the company a certain set of beliefs and skills. “Since conflicts often arise in a multi-generational environment, it’s helpful for new generation business owners and their management team to have some understanding of the differences between employees of distinct generations,” state the Johnsons.
For instance, Gen Y and Linksters want direct instruction while Traditionals and Baby Boomers don’t want to be micromanaged. Baby Boomers usually enjoy working as a team while Gen Xers typically prefer to fly solo. Understanding these difference can help the new generation business owner solve conflicts.
When a conflict does arise between multiple generations and mediation proves difficult, the Johnsons suggest having those involved air their issues.
“For instance, a Traditional may find a Gen Yer’s lack of formality and manners offensive, while a Gen Yer may feel ‘dissed’ when this older employee fails to respect her opinions and input.” Getting the issue on the table makes it easier to resolve.
Another tactic that can work when managing a multi-generational team is to find a generationally appropriate fit.
If your Gen X employee isn’t finishing tasks, link the completion of these jobs to a tangible reward. Those who fall into the Gen Y and Linkster category are adept at new technologies; if you find an employee from one of these groups complaining about not having enough work, find an extra task that involves computers, such as blogging about the business or handling social media networking tasks.
Finally, the Johnsons say to have each generation work on teaching the other about their skills.
Gen Xers are known for their ability to mediate, so you might have a Gen X employee lead a seminar for the company on this skill. For those Linksters proficient on the computer, consider offering classes on technology in the business, which would benefit Baby Boomers who may still be a bit shy when it comes to logging onto the Web or using a program like Excel to track expenses.