When businesses suddenly realise that their workforce is aging, a number of challenges are presented to them when it comes to implementing succession planning programmes. In many cases, the solution will be to promote millennial workers (those born between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s) to management positions, which can lead to them working alongside Generation X managers (those born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s) who are senior to them in terms of age, but not in position. Generational differences between senior executives in the workplace are inevitable.
Generation Xers and 2millennials will have different opinions and attitudes when it comes to the managing teams, dealing with clients and ultimately meeting their objectives. It is important to remember that although these differences exist, they do not necessarily mean that either group is less suited for management than the other.
Team and individual productivity will always have to be measured so managers can ascertain that goals are being met and the quality of work remains high. Generation X managers might focus on prearranged KPIs and formal testing to ensure that employees are up-to-date with developments in the industry and that they are capable of offering the best to clients and the organisation as a whole. Their attitude here is considered, logical and an effective way of staying in touch with and tracking the progress of the whole team.
A millennial-devised feedback and productivity measuring system will be less formal, more fluid and almost constant, due to changing manager-employee relationships and communications systems. They will be sure to reward employees for good work, but also be unafraid to point out where they need to improve. This should be most effective in companies where there is a faster pace of work and there may not be time for lengthy individual performance reviews.
Work-life balance or blend?
This is where generational differences in the workplace may become most pronounced. Generation X managers traditionally focus on a very clear work-life balance – they want roughly equal amounts of time spent on each and try to avoid either spilling over into the other. To this end, they will be less likely to ask employees to spend designated free time working (and if they do, the employees will be well-compensated for it).
Millennials, on the other hand, do not mind working when they’re not in the office, as long as they’re not restricted from accessing or dealing with their personal life when they are in the office. To this end, there may be an increase in the amount of arrangements made with employees in terms of allowing them to work at home or on flexi-hours, so they can maintain their own work-life blend. This will probably suit employees of the millennial generation, but may ruffle a few feathers of those from Generation X.
Adoption of new technology and ways of working
As far as Generation X managers are concerned, there may well be an attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” with regard to the way the work is done. If a system is meeting all of the team’s needs, it may be detrimental to their work to introduce new methods, techniques and processes. They are therefore more focused on delivering good work using established systems and trying not to rock the boat too much. While this is, in essence, a perfectly good way to do things, there is a chance it could lead to complacency and a tendency to do the bare minimum (rather than striving for more) on the team’s part.
Millennial managers are far less bothered about this kind of thing – as far as their naturally curious minds are concerned there will always be better ways of doing something in order to attain more impressive results. There will be more experimentation with different kinds of software and different working processes to see if anything can be used to improve the effectiveness and productivity of the team. In the short-term, this may be detrimental, but it could pay dividends in the long-term.
The relationships between management and employees also come under scrutiny. Older managers may take the position that they do not want to be friends or have personal relationships with their team members because they may be forced to fire them, or they may simply move companies and lose touch with them. This may not be fantastic for employee engagement, especially if millennials make up the majority of the team.
This is in stark contrast to the way millennials manage their relationships – mobile devices and instant messaging now mean that everyone is reachable at the touch of a button, encouraging fluid and transparent relationships that go beyond the scope of the workplace and turn into lasting connections. Teams become more close-knit and committed to working at the highest levels because of these stronger individual and overall relationships. However, it will probably not affect the tendency of millennials to leave companies where they feel their needs are not being fulfilled.
Employee empowerment and engagement techniques are significantly influenced by the generational outlooks of the senior managers who decide how best to engage their teams. For instance, Generation Xers are more motivated by money than millennials, who tend to prize learning and development. Different people are motivated by different things, and millennials are probably better-placed to be flexible in their attitudes towards meeting the conditions that employees need in their positions to feel valued and important within the organisation as a whole.
Alex is a passionate digital marketing executive with a hunger to learn. He loves to read write and share anything to do with career progression and would love to be recognised as a motivational icon within the business environment. For more from Alex, check out his Twitter @AlexBradnum