A good first step to getting the best from a multigenerational workplace is to separate the facts from the mythology and one of the most common errors is to assume that each generation has different values.

Korn Ferry Hay Group’s recent research, ‘Managing a multigenerational workforce: the myths vs. the realities’, found that all generations share the primary reason for staying at their company—exciting and challenging work. The second and third most important features that keep people in an organisation are ‘opportunities to advance’ and ‘autonomy/freedom’. At age 55+, ‘meaningful work’ replaces advancement opportunities. But autonomy and freedom remain important, regardless of age.

Workplace myth

Another myth is that each generation needs to be managed differently in order to keep them engaged and motivated. However, we have seen a distinct pattern emerge when looking at the experiences and expectations of different generations in the workplace and when it comes to what people are looking for from their actual leaders, there are very few differences.

Our research measures what people want from their leader versus what they are currently getting. We found that what we look for from our leaders remains fairly constant across generations.

Therefore, leaders don’t need to develop generation-specific skills. They should be able to flex and adapt leadership styles to the needs of each individual.

We don’t define people and their needs at work by gender or cultural background, and similarly it seems there is little evidence for making assumptions about the kind of work environment an employee wants based on their age.

Defensive management may become a self-fulfilling prophesy, whereas constructive and positive leadership will improve opportunities for all employees.

3 ways to bring out the best in your staff

  1. Create an open environment

Creating climates that truly embrace diversity and promote mutual understanding will help to overcome any perceived differences. Encouraging an environment where people can talk openly about their specific needs creates a workplace where everyone feels valued. This is more likely to come from dialogue than policy.

  1. Equip leaders with a broad range of leadership styles

Leaders who are best at engaging and motivating their teams―and who get higher performance as a result―draw on a range of styles. Measure the range your leaders use and help them to improve their impact.

  1. Manage the plunge

Can you do more to maintain the initial high expectations that younger generations bring to the workplace? Do your integration and socialisation programs help young people adjust as they start to establish themselves in their chosen career? Measure the potential of younger generations and support them to develop emotional and social skills to navigate the workplace.

The leaders who are best at engaging and motivating their teams―and who get higher performance as a result―draw on a range of different leadership styles. They have the self-awareness to adapt their leadership style to the person and situation, regardless of the generation.

The best leaders will continue to use empathy and insight into the unique attributes and expectations of each person to create an environment that gets the best from everyone, regardless of age.

How do you motivate your multigenerational staff? Do you take a one-size-fits-all approach, or do you tailor your leadership style?