For the first time in history, members of four different generational cohorts are in the same workplace: Traditionalists (born before 1945), Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980), and Millennials (born between 1981 and 2000). Because members of each cohort share unique cultural experiences, they also carry with them distinctive values and desires that affect how they engage with their organization. In this article, you’ll find some tools that you can utilize to lead across generations on a virtual team.
To successfully manage generational differences, you have to know what they are and how they affect your work environment. If you’ve been leading teams for a while, you have probably picked up some insights along the way, but here are two good resources where you can quickly learn about each specific cohort and what makes them tick:
This is an organized list of characteristics for each of the four generations. You’ll find great information about what each cohort desires in their workplace.
If you’re curious about how each generation can influence their workplace, this is a great start.
The point? Your actions as a leader are greatly influenced by the way that you think. If you can train yourself to think generally in your interactions with team members, you will inherently begin to transform your workplace into one that is inviting to all potential team members.
Build diverse teams
Employees from each generation, whether working on location or remotely, need to be managed differently. Techrepublic.com says that Baby Boomers require systematic feedback in which their manager walks through growth areas and allows them time to process. Millennials, on the other hand, would rather have immediate, on-the-go feedback that feels organic and is bluntly honest.
It’s important to develop a culture in which differences are celebrated, valued and don’t become obstacles. As an organizational leader, you can do this by creating multi-generational teams. Are you hiring for a new position? Think generational diversity. Do you have the capacity to move people within your organization?? Think about ways to build diverse teams. Why? Because when employees from different backgrounds collaborate, they find commonalities, begin to appreciate differences, and perform at a high level.
Keep in mind, this will be uncomfortable for many team members.. It’s human nature to avoid humans that aren’t like you. It is going to require open dialogue among team members and between leadership and remote employees. Trust us. It will pay off when your organization begins to leverage generational differences for success.
Speak their language
Members of each cohort, whether they would admit it or not, respond to their own unique method of recognition. The reality is when they feel like leadership is speaking their language, they are more likely to be engaged in their work. Getting this right is something extremely important in a remote workplace where you don’t have the opportunity to walk by an employee’s desk to say, “good job!” or take a team member to lunch on a whim.
If you want to lead a generationally diverse, remote team, you’ll need to think about how you can reward and encourage members from each generation. Here is a simple list, inspired by forbes.com to get your brain turning. Obviously, you’ll want to develop a more robust understanding of what makes people tick, but this is a good jumping off point.
- Traditionalists grew up during the Great Depression. They value hard work and may come across as inflexible. You can engage them by recognizing their wealth of knowledge and life experience. This can happen through casual conversation before or after a meeting. It can also happen during a high-stress project when you intentionally look for the traditionalist’s advice.
- Baby Boomers grew up after WWII when America was relatively prosperous. They want to be rewarded for their hard, good work. In fact, they believe they deserve to be rewarded for hard work and see it as an equivalent to respect. Yes, you’ll have to figure out how to acknowledge Boomers using financial incentives, but if you can figure it out, they will be loyal to your organization.
- Generation Xers are typically skeptical of leadership and tend to march to the beat of their own drum. They value an environment in which they can do things their own way and be trusted to get their job done. Truthfully, you can’t be hands off with every Gen Xer all the time, but you can engage them by providing opportunities for them to use their own style even when it’s not the most efficient or you prefer a different way.
- Millennials grew up being told how awesome they are. They want to be recognized for even the smallest task and care deeply about the purpose behind their work. They want to know how their doing at their job every step of the way. You’ll need to figure out how to devote extra time to affirming the Millennials on your team. If you can accomplish that, they will be amazing employees.
You might be thinking, “There is no way I can do all of this!” Don’t worry. The fact that you’re reading this article is a sign that you and your organization are headed in the right direction. What we advise you to do is pick one tool to use over the next 6 months. Then, after you’ve mastered it, add another tool to your belt.
Stay positive and remember that utilizing remote teams, let alone working on multi-generational teams, is unchartered territory for many Americans. Like we’ve written about before, you are ahead of the curve and we hope that we can help you grow into a leader that transforms your organization into one that invites generational diversity in your remote workplace.
Are there any tools that you have used? If so, we would love to hear about them!