6 Best Practices for Business Owners to Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce

Realizing and leveraging the value of your ageing workforce

There’s been no shortage of material and opinions on how to manage a multi-generational workforce.  The diversity of a company’s population base has never been greater.  You conceivably could have employees’ ages spanning from 18 to 80.  You’ve got a huge ethnic and cultural mix that spells potential disaster for someone trying to manage such a group.  The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, nor does the my-way-or-the-highway style benefit anyone.  The ability to leverage the sum of a workforce’s parts effectively, creates strength, healthy competition and stability.

Here are 6 best practices in how to manage a multi-generational workforce:

  1. The flexibility of Benefits:  Older workforces require greater health and dental benefits. The need for greater coverage for families and/or catastrophic coverage or major dental is revered strongly by the older workers. In contrast, flexibility for less traditional benefits like massage, eyeglasses are heralded by younger workers.  Both can be accomplished with a Health Spending Account.  By tying in an increased Health Spending Account with longer tenure promotes loyalty amongst all employees.
  2. The flexibility of Work Hours/ Workplace: As a workforce ages and starts having families, there is an increased need for time off to attend kids functions and events.  Although younger employees may not have the same flexibility for family purposes, many prefer working unconventional hours to bypass traffic and accommodate lifestyle flexibility.  Requests for flexible work hours also yields requests for flexible work environments and telecommuting.  Philosophically, some more traditional managers are challenged with these requests.  Obviously, if a need for face-to-face collaboration is required or customer interaction, this may not be feasible.  With the increased use of webinars and teleconferencing, these less conventional work environments can be embraced and more accepted.
  3. Financial Wellness Education: Studies have shown that employees on average spend 10-30% of their workday dealing with personal issues.  To say that work life and home life are mutually exclusive is a thing of the past.  Employers who are more invested in their employees’ well-being receive greater retention, less absenteeism and greater overall happiness.  By helping employees deal with some of the things that keep them awake at night, employers not only see less turnover, greater productivity gains.  By creating a “we care” mentality as an employer, it helps employees deal with these real-life challenges.  Educating employees on creating a financial finish line, dealing with elderly parents, consequences of not having a will or how to better save for your children’s post-secondary school education will yield more than an only bottom-line incentive for the company.
  4. Encouraging a Culture of Innovation: Regardless of your age, tenure or position, you are not judged upon the hours you put in rather the quality of work you produce, the time it takes to produce it and the effect on the bottom line that it creates.  By encouraging a culture of innovation, promoted by collaboration and not individualism will result in a team dynamic that is measured on success.  The more the collaboration, typically, the better the results.  By encouraging the strengths of individuals in a team culture will promote
  5. Respecting the Generational Differences: By respecting the differences between generations, it will help to dispel the negative stereotyping that may exist.  Whether more seasoned workers feel younger workers have a sense of entitlement or younger workers feeling that the ageing workforce is behind the times.  This should be outlined in the HR Code of Conduct and Employment contract.  Encouraging a zero-tolerance towards age discrimination gives employees a strong indication of the company’s tolerance towards negative stereotypes.
  6. Creating Cultural Expectations:  Creating an understanding of how you will be measured and valued by your company is essential to success.  Many older generations feel that you should be measured by the time you spend in the office. In contrast, younger generations are less about face time in the office and more about what you accomplish or contribute while you’re working.  Be specific in how this will be measured.  Generation Y managing older employees or Baby Boomer Managers managing Generation Y employees will certainly get into conflict early on if this isn’t determined upfront.

Respecting the differences between different types and ages of employees has proven to be challenging throughout time.  This isn’t to say that you won’t be able to succeed in this endeavour; however, ground rules need to be established early and often to lessen the possibility for conflict in the workplace.

Chris Coulter is the Founder and President of The Finish Line Group.  Chris works with business owners to leverage their businesses to increase their wealth, reduce corporate and personal taxes, create viable succession strategies, enable employee retention strategies and allow them to exit their businesses on their terms.

 Chris’ passion for what he does evolve from the mistakes he made in his first business; by not diversifying his risk and not utilizing a lot of the opportunities within his business to create significant wealth.  Chris found out the difficult way and now educates business owners on how to avoid many of his former oversites and ultimately control where their finish line ends

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