If you’re a manager, the number one thing you have to know to ensure employee engagement is that you need to adapt your style to individuals and to appreciate and embrace the differences in generations.
Generation’s change, but you can’t change generations.
Ah the good ol’days – we miss them so
Two hundred years ago, managing people was probably a lot easier than it is now. Apart from the fact everyone was more inclined to do as they were told, I imagine everyone behaved in a more consistent fashion and there was a lesser range of expectations from employees.
Everybody’s different and wants something different
Nowadays, a manager really needs to be a master of a myriad of demographics including race, culture, gender and generational differences. Over the last 100 years, the rate of change in living standards, education, technology etc. has meant that consecutive generations have vastly different expectations regarding entitlements, ambitions, their career, their work life balance and much more.
One size doesn’t fit all
No longer can a manger be schooled in a single management practice that can be applied across their workforce in a one size fits all strategy. Different generations have different needs, wants, desires and expectations. Different generations maybe at different stages of their lives which impacts their attitudes toward work, for example, young children, either new or no mortgage, career or work-life balance focused (or both of course), or even ready for retirement.
So you can see, applying the one size all is not only impractical, but it’s very likely to lead to lower employee engagement as individuals battle with balancing their personal needs and the demands of their job.
15 Fine Tips
You need to work out who you have in your team and develop an appreciation for their varying needs and wants and manage accordingly. Here are some great tips on managing different generations.
Engaging Baby boomers (1946-1964)
- Recognise their skills and experience.
- Encourage them to mentor junior staff.
- Encourage them to join and contribute to industry associations that recognize their experience and seniority.
- Include them in decision making to recognise their knowledge and skills.
- Provide flexibility for transitioning toward retirement
Engaging Generation X (1965-1983) 
- Provide opportunities for them to challenge authority and experts and to debate policy.
- Allow them to work with autonomy.
- Allow flexible work practices that accommodate their particular time of life – they are often very busy outside of work in their personal lives.
- Keep them clear of corporate politics.
- Set clear, concise and unambiguous goals for them.
Engaging Gen Y (1985-2002)
- Set them stretch goals and support them – they thrive on challenges
- Set them special projects and have them report back to their team
- Allow then to use their networking capability in a team environment
- Reduce the number of formal and very structured meetings
- Create environments that encourage networking and collaboration, like open plan offices.
One size never fits all, not even within a generation
After all this, people are still individuals, and we need to mould our style to fit the characteristics and the idiosyncrasies of individuals even within generations. Fortunately, that’s what makes managing people challenging, yet so fascinating.
For further reading, check out my detailed post – Are you running a one size fits all strategy.
Other good reading
[i] Please note there is variation regarding the end year of Gen X and the beginning year of Gen Y and I have selected what I think is a good representation.