How to Run a Thriving Multigenerational Team

The biggest order of the year just came into your organization. It will require all kinds of skills to fulfill. You need the veteran craftsmanship of lead sheetfed press operators and the technological ingenuity of younger graphic artists. How will these two teams work together? What common ground can they find to complete this project?
Managing a multigenerational workforce is not a simple task. It requires bridging many cultural and societal gaps. As leaders we need to develop a way to minimize the areas of potential conflict. We must embrace and maximize the strengths of every employee regardless, of his or her generational tag and empower our multigenerational team.

The Big Question

How do we integrate employees from various generations into one thriving team? Start by identifying who makes up the multigenerational work force. Currently, there are five generations in the workplace with different characteristics, expectations, and work styles. Here are the generation groups who make up the workforce:

  • Traditionalists (1922 – 1945) are working longer than generations before them due to the recession in the late 1990s and the fact that they are living longer. This group values strong leadership and loyalty. They prefer face-to-face meetings and many of them have worked for the same company their entire career. This group makes up the smallest population in the workplace.
  • Baby Boomers (1946–1964) are nearing retirement age but also working longer. Baby Boomers look for stability and prefer to stay with a company long-term. They like the structure and hierarchy of traditional companies.
  • Generation X (1965–1980) is your typical middle manager level or senior leader in many organizations. Gen Xers are self-reliant and many grew up as latchkey kids. They are hard working and tech literate with a focus on work/life balance.
  • Generation Y (1981–1994) is also known as the millennial generation. They are now the largest population of employees in the workforce. Millennials are the technology generation who understand social media and technology-enabled work better than previous generations. They like workplace flexibility and constant feedback. Millennials can get bored easily and are eager to move up the corporate ladder.
  • Generation Z (1994–2012) is just staring to enter the workforce. They are digital natives and can use technology in ways that previous generations cannot fathom.

The vast range of skills and career mindsets in today’s workforce pose a unique challenge to managers who lead teams that could have an age range of 20–80.

Source Talent from Each Generation

There are some key similarities and differences in sourcing workers from each generation. All generations are now using mobile devices for their job searches. Online postings and job board apps are commonly used, albeit at higher rates for millennials than boomers.

Millennials are most likely to use their mobile devices, social media, and apps for their job searches. They’re less familiar with the labor market compared to older job seekers. When searching for job opportunities, baby boomers typically look at what industries have the most open positions that match their skill sets. It’s smart, as the demand for talent drives up wages and ensures a higher chance of finding a good position.

It is more likely you will find boomers through professional networking and referrals. Gen Xers also utilize networking a lot in addition to job boards and social media. At this point, career fairs and social media are the best methods to reach Gen Z.

Perks and Corporate Culture

Boomers like a solid financial package and 401(k) programs with a competitive company match and vesting schedule. For generation X, learning and advancement opportunities are key perks. They want the ability to learn on the job and advance their skills to take on new roles. Millennials want to work for a company that aligns with their values. They crave constant feedback and will change jobs quickly if they do not feel they are making an impact. Many do not stay with the same company long, so it is valuable to show this generation what their career path could look like while offering regular opportunities for growth.

Generation Z is still very new to the workplace, but what we know so far is that they are looking for constant access to information. Additionally constant, open communication is important for this group. They are ambitious, and career growth is near the top of this list of important aspects for a job.

Leveraging Each Generation’s Skills

The traditionalists and baby boomers have a lot of valuable skills that would be beneficial to the millennials and generation Z workers. This is especially true in an industry so heavily rooted in craftsmanship like print. Conversely, the younger generations have a lot to teach their predecessors about new technology. How can the different generations make each other’s skills stronger?

  • Apprenticeship programs can be a win for everyone, including the company. This is the most traditional way for newer generations to learn crucial skills.
  • Mentor programs can increase communication and learning as well as retention for both the mentor and mentee.
  • Reverse Mentor programs are very good to help older generations better understand the younger generations’ strengths and motivations. These programs are also a good opportunity for baby boomers and gen X to learn new technology skills from millennials and gen Z.
  • Encourage teamwork. Each generation has different inclinations and skills for teamwork. By enabling employees from different generations to work as teams, innovation will rise. When you have a diverse group of people approach problems from different angles, unheard of solutions can be found.

In order to have a well-run multigenerational team, it is important to make sure each group is incentivized for their specific needs. This might include adding more communication, learning programs, or opportunities to advance within the company. Perhaps you need to have your employees take a survey to see if anything is missing from their working situation?

Another key to success with a multigenerational group is utilizing each group’s differences to strengthen the team. Build programs such as mentorships and reverse mentorships. Why spend money on skills training when your employees can educate each other?

Finally, like with any excellent team, everyone needs to have an overarching goal and know clearly their individual responsibilities that will contribute to that goal. Get everyone working together toward something meaningful for the company. Regardless of when they were born, your employees inherently want to succeed. Make sure they have the tools to do just that.

Brian Regan

Brian Regan, Co-Founder and President of Semper International, was born with ink in his veins – throughout his career, he has run everything in his family’s small printing company from prepress to finishing. Today, he is responsible for Semper Sales and Operations, overseeing national sales, hiring, training, skills testing, and conducting statistical analyses to measure success. Brian manages Semper’s sister company, PrintWorkers.com, the industry’s leading job board and SemperPT, a new staffing business for wellness professionals.

He is deeply engaged in the printing community, having served as the past Chairman and active board member of the Printing and Graphics Scholarship Foundation. He is also a regular speaker and a contributor on the subject of the staffing challenges facing the graphic arts industry in industry trade publications and association events.