Jan 30 2013
With the amalgamation of four generations of employees in today’s workforce, management is no easy task. It becomes an exercise in workplace psychology, in balancing diverse skillsets, personalities, and ways of being. Management is the art of effectively training your staff to excel at working together, while honoring the individual experience and insight each employee brings to his or her position. When your workforce ranges in age from the Traditionalists, born pre-1946, to Generation Y, born 1980 and onward, helping them find a common ground can pose a significant challenge. In the telephone answering service industry, there are a blend of populations: those from the era of switchboards and carbon copy message pads; employees who were entering the workforce when the first answering machines and voicemail were invented; all the way up to the newest generation of workers, born into an incredibly advanced technological age. No matter in which industry you find yourself at the helm, the successful manager will bridge this gap using a variety of methods, training, team building, etc. The more opportunities available to foster camaraderie among staff members, the more prosperous the work. Each generation has their own set of strengths. Accessing those strengths, acknowledging their value to the entire team, and combining them to produce the best end result is a hallmark of an exceptional manager.
Respect begets success.
Perception is everything. When you show your workforce that their management team does not subscribe to a one-size-fits-all mentality, you show them that they are respected as individuals. An exceptional manager must be accessible, approachable; recognize and accept that each employee has something valuable and unique to contribute based on their generation, upbringing, aspirations, education, and so on. If you have never given your employees an opportunity to provide honest feedback about your management style (as most employers likely have not), then how do you know what kind of manager you are? Here are some points to consider:
- What are some ways in which you show your employees that they are respected?
- Do you have an air of thankfulness when it comes to how hard your employees work?
- How do you recognize and reward successful employees?
- Do you have a good understanding of your multi-generational staff’s varied communication and learning styles? How well do you communicate with them?
- Do you have an open-door policy?
- Do you feel that you are approachable?
- If you were working for you, would you like having yourself as a manager?
These are some questions you may want to ask yourself when examining how you have chosen to manage your employees. For many of us, management may not be something in which we have specific training. Sometimes, it is simply a role you find yourself in after years on the job. So how do you know what to do? How do you earn your employees trust?
What motivates your employees?
Generation Y – KEY WORDS: TECHNOLOGICALLY DRIVEN, AUTONOMOUS
Born 1980 and on, this is a technologically-driven generation with a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips. They are adept at locating rapid solutions to problems utilizing the virtual environment. They are autonomous and often unaware of proper work etiquette and protocol. Generation Y-ers are outspoken, goal-oriented, and results-driven. They like to work on their own terms.
Generation X – KEY WORDS: COLLABORATORS, THINKING “OUTSIDE OF THE BOX”
Employees born from 1964 through 1979 can be labeled as Generation X. As a generation who was raised by TV, this group has been effectively self-managing since an early age. Gen-X-ers are results driven. This is a group that finds the fastest way to the finish line; even if it involves short cuts and breaking the rules. Gen X-ers prefer working in a group (as opposed to the autonomous Gen-Y-ers) and are great collaborators when they find the right fit. This is a group that is true to themselves. Having seen their parents laid-off after giving their lives to their companies, this group is often waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Baby Boomers – KEY WORDS: OVER-ACHIEVER, DRIVEN BY JOB LOYALTY
Workers who were born between 1946 and 1964 fall into the Baby Boomer generation. This is the generation of hard workers. They invented the 70 hour work week. They invented the term workaholic and they are the ultimate over achievers. They expect the same from their company and their children as they do from themselves; excellence. Baby Boomers will do whatever it takes to get the job done. While this group is extremely loyal to the company, they often have an imbalance of work and personal life. While this group is not entirely opposed to embracing technology, they often do so begrudgingly.
The Traditionalists – KEY WORDS: STRUCTURE, RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY
Born before 1946, this group is still in the workplace. While they might be dismissed as past their prime, this is a group of loyal, stable, hardworking individuals who tend to work for the same company forever. This is a group that is used to sacrifice and getting through lean times. Traditionalists believe in structure, respecting authority and following rules and workplace etiquette. This is a group that focuses on getting the job done, and keeps work and family separate.
Bridging the Gap through Team Building
The collaborative process serves to bring Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y together. It’s the idea of feeling a part of something that is larger than any one person. Let’s look at some ways in which relational activities can assist in the creation of a more harmonious working environment. These might be a good thing to try at a staff meeting.
- Camaraderie: Depending on how large your group is, why not break them up into dyads. Pair each team member with someone of a different generation if possible. Give them each 5 minutes to interview each other. What is their background? How did they get to this position? What is their family like? What is an interesting fact about them that no one knows? What is their favorite hobby? Come up with whatever questions you like. When each person has had a chance to interview the other, the dyads will report back to the entire group and “introduce” their colleague to everyone. Sometimes, when you can connect on a personal level with a coworker, even if it is just one small piece of information, you may immediately have a better rapport and work more fluidly as a team.
- Control: Do you remember the game Mad Libs? Split up your workforce into several groups of varying ages. Provide them with a company Mad Libs form that you have created, leaving blank spaces for them to fill in. Assign one member from each team to fill in the blanks. One by one, each team member will offer their answer to fill in one of the blank spaces. Once all of the blanks are filled in, see what kind of a story you have. By working together to complete the story, everyone relinquishes control, and each member’s contribution is of equal value.
- Communication: Offer your employees the opportunity to openly discuss some of the challenges they face on a daily basis. Prior to your Town Hall, solicit anonymous input from your staff, asking them to bring to light any issues they feel need to be addressed. (Perhaps via a suggestion box, and you can even showcase a few examples: Do they feel they have the resources they need to do their jobs properly? Do they feel supported by other team members? Do they feel that their management team empowers them?) It may be surprising how many differing opinions are voiced, and it may provide you with insight into your workforce that you would otherwise be blind to. Present these anonymous concerns at the Town Hall and open them up so that the entire team can work towards solutions. Then, be sure to schedule a follow-up Town Hall. It is not enough to simply hear what others are saying. Changes must be addressed and implemented!
The above are just a few examples that may or may not work for your organization. Come up you’re your own. Be creative! You know your team better than anyone, and if you don’t, now is the time to start learning. When managers take the time to really listen to the needs of their employees, especially in a multi-generational environment where core values and skillsets are incredibly diverse, it makes for a more appealing work environment. Positive psychology in the workplace contributes to contented employees. Having an open-door management style, using collaborative activities to bridge the generation gap, and being a supportive and respectful leader will give your employees the freedom to learn and grow within your organization. For more information on positive psychology in the workplace, check out this Forbes article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2012/08/08/5-quick-ways-you-can-bring-positive-psychology-to-your-workplace-without-earning-a-degree/