5 Tips for Managing a Multigenerational Workforce

If you oversee a multigenerational finance team, you may find it challenging to manage a group featuring diverse perspectives and life experiences. Be confident it can be done. Here are five tips.

Your finance department likely has a mix of baby boomers, Generation X and millennial professionals, a frequent occurrence today. It’s possible, even probable, these employees share many common interests and attributes. However, being formed by when they came of age, they also are sure to have varying outlooks, values, communication preferences and work styles.

These diverse traits can present challenges. Managed well, though, they can lead to a more bonded, productive and innovative staff. Keep the following in mind as you lead a multigenerational workforce.

  1. Understand the generations

To manage a multigenerational team well, you have to know what makes your staff tick. The four generations in today’s workforce have unique preferences, from general behavior to decision-making processes.

  • Baby boomers (born 1946–1964) are work-centric and independent, tend to challenge the rules, and have a somewhat guarded communication style.
  • Gen X (born 1965–1977) grew up in the boomers’ shadows. They’re a little cynical, a lot individualistic and highly adaptable to change.
  • Gen Y (born 1978–1989) came of age as internet technology emerged and dominated their world. They tend to prioritize family, friends and teamwork.
  • Gen Z (born 1990–1999) are tech natives. They have never known a world without the internet, are constant communicators and, having seen their parents weather the Great Recession, desire stability.

Of course, not every member of these generations can be neatly categorized; there’s a wide range of behaviors within each group. These are general tendencies that can provide business leaders with useful insights about how to manage a multigenerational workforce.

Don’t resist generational differences, though. When millennials first came on the scene, for example, managers often were concerned about these professionals’ work and communication styles – unnecessarily so it turned out.

In Creating a Leadership Pipeline: Developing the Millennial Generation Into Finance Leaders from Financial Executives Research Foundation and Robert Half, author Michael S. Seaver noted research for the report “revealed millennials share the same aspirations and traits as previous generations. They just express them differently.” Instead of resisting new styles and approaches, embrace them.

  1. Promote a mutually respectful workplace

For millennials (a term that refers to both Gen Y and Gen Z combined) to work well with older generations, they have to get to know each other on more than just a superficial level. According to Get Ready for Generation Z, a white paper from Robert Half and Enactus, 45 percent of Gen Zers expect working with baby boomers to be difficult. They’re concerned they will be seen as “kids” and won’t be taken seriously. Similarly, some boomers may be puzzled by the communication preferences and work ethics of the youngest working generation and concerned they will be seen as old-fashioned.

As a manager of a finance department, one of your roles is to strengthen work relationships and promote camaraderie. Help colleagues mix, mingle and learn about each other with team-building activities. Promote the mindset that every generation has much to offer the team, and be generous in praising each group’s contributions.

  1. Provide professional development throughout the organization

Your Gen Z workers are eager to learn and rapidly advance their careers. In fact, our research shows that 56 percent of Gen Z respondents want to be working their way up the corporate ladder or managing employees within five years of graduating from college.

This go-getting group will need your help getting there. Set them up for success by giving them plenty of opportunities and resources to develop their technical expertise, communication skills, office etiquette and leadership.

Gen Z isn’t the only generation that benefit from continuing professional education and development. Seminars and workshops are effective ways to provide team-wide training. They keep everyone up to speed on the newest developments in finance. Encouraging staff to attain professional certifications also helps your department gain a deeper knowledge base.

  1. Establish mentoring programs

Mentoring is an excellent means of solidifying the bonds of your workforce. A Robert Half survey found that while 86 percent of CFOs interviewed say it’s important to have a mentor, only 26 percent of workers have one.

If your finance department doesn’t have a mentoring program, start one. If you have one but it’s inactive, resurrect it. Also consider reverse mentorships, where younger workers with greater expertise in certain areas share their insights with senior-level staff.

  1. Show them why their work matters

Clearly, every job contributes to the company’s success. Yet, not all employees can make the connection for their roles, Robert Half Management Resources research found. Less than half of professionals surveyed said they can always see how their day-to-day duties help the firm.

On the positive side, the majority want greater insights on this. Most strikingly, nearly two-thirds of workers 18 to 34 years old reported a desire to learn more about how their performance affects the company’s.

This represents a great area of opportunity for today’s leaders, particularly financial executives. When meeting with employees, explain the link between their efforts and the organization’s well-being. Talk about how they help your firm make money, save money or enhance branding. In the process, you’ll reinforce your reputation as a highly regarded employer and foster more strategic thinking among your team.

Financial executives overseeing a workforce including members of different generations face a situation fraught with potential pitfalls and challenges. Following the tips above, however, can help you build and maintain an organization that produces excellent results.

 

Tim Hird is the executive director of Robert Half Management Resources.