Blog: How to manage a multi-generational team

Performance Management

How to manage a multi-generational team

A multi-gen workplace demands trans-generational solutions; it is time to re-look at recruitment and retention practices
How to manage a multi-generational team

The team concluded the weekly review meeting. As they headed out to have coffee, the disgruntled group broke out in a chorus of complaints: “He just doesn’t understand the difference. After spending 14 years in this company, I feel unwanted as my experience is not used”. “I feel stuck as my ideas go unheard and I am expected to follow traditional ways. I hope I get heard the next time”. “I was focusing on the bottom line and there was absolute no reaction to that”

Inside, the newly-appointed manager was talking to his superior. “The group is not functioning to its true potential. Their lack of innovative thinking and readiness to change are symptoms of this”. This manager, a recent B-school graduate, was appointed to handle a team of six members, whose age varied from 26 to 45 years. While they welcomed him with enthusiasm, they all had their concerns: The older group was worried about job security, while the younger ones about their ideas and career growth & stability. And the manager was worried about their flexibility to change.

A group managed by a new head often needs time to understand people, processes and structure to get going. New managers are expected to be aware of what capabilities each one of its members contributes to the group. Knowledge about aspirations and interests of others also needs to be understood. The perfect mix of capabilities and aspirations has to be glued to performance expectations.

At the same time, team members should be encouraged to talk about their expectations and challenges within team. Executives prefer to create their own goals for learning, take advantage of established competencies and favour problem solving educational techniques.

Mature teams are self-directed and goal oriented. Micromanaging them will not only hamper their productivity but would also hamper their innovative thinking. Here are some tips for teams as well as for managers that would help them produce better results:

Tips for Managers

  1. Take time to understand capability difference and learning curve of each team member
  2. Ensure there is relevance in capability, aspirations and performance expectations
  3. Ensure all performance expectations are communicated in a practical way
  4. Ensure learning & development initiatives are experiential in nature
  5. Understand how different generations define respect and authority
  6. Have ability to scale up and scale down based on team mix

Tips for Team Members

  1. Don’t carry prejudices towards younger or less experienced manager
  2. Communicate challenges openly and consistently till issues are resolved
  3. Be open to different perceptions and style of working
  4. Try to be objective driven and focus on content more. “What is said” is more important than “Who is saying it”
  5. Respect varied perspectives

While these tips will help initially, there are some indicators that may lead to disengagement of the team: Lack of ideas flowing horizontally and vertically; team members avoid you and reach out to other teams to share ideas; when role and goal clarity is demanded again and again and still there is no delivery.

Though these diverse multi-gen workforces have their own challenges, they are more productive than homogeneous teams. Let’s re-look at our recruitment and retention practices to nurture talent. A multi-gen workplace demands trans-generational solutions. Remember it was never shortage of people, it is shortage of talent.

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Topics: Performance Management

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