There can be no denying that a great generational shift in the workplace is well and truly underway, but it continues to be a common challenge for leadership teams in various sectors. Rather than seeing the change as a disruption or making decisions based on stereotypes, a better approach is to work on understanding the differences and how these can be turned into a source of competitive advantage.
‘Generation Y’ or ‘Millennials’ had a very different upbringing compared to previous generations. Being raised in a constantly changing and connected world and entering the workplace in much less stable economic times has had an impact on their outlook, values and their expectations of the world of work.
With this shift in expectations and the continued uncertainty in the market, it is increasingly important for leadership teams to unlock and understand the profiles of different generations so they know what their teams need to excel, and can create working environments in which they will flourish.
Millennials are credited as being highly ambitious, collaborative, people-orientated and abstract thinkers. They view change as a vehicle for new opportunities and often seek out ways to do things differently. They believe leadership should be transparent and look for openness, inclusion and diversity in the workplace. This is often reflected in their own leadership styles, prioritising interpersonal skills and empowering others above more traditional aspects such as stakeholder management.
This is not to say that the traits of Millennials are any better or worse than those of previous generations, but given that Millennials make up an increasing percentage of the workforce it is easy to understand the attention they have been given. However, rather than focusing on one generation in isolation, leadership teams will benefit more from acknowledging generational differences and utilising the talents and skills of different generations to get optimal performance from each group.
Bringing together generations in a meaningful way that contributes to both the success of the business and the professional development of individuals is not an easy task. But a leadership team that invests the time in understanding how each generation can provide different experience, knowledge and viewpoints and celebrate generational differences has a lot to gain. Leaders that can demonstrate flexibility in their management style, reward structure and training programmes alongside building an employee engagement strategy that works for all, will ultimately create a positive and productive working environment where all colleagues feel respected and valued.
So instead of viewing the generation shift as negative disruption, or trying to ignore it, it should be embraced, as generational diversity can be a substantial asset to any business.
Katie Hart specialises in recruiting senior leadership and management positions within the consumer and retail sectors.