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Leading Multiple Generations

December 7, 2016

The U.S. workforce demographics are dramatically changing.


In 2015, Millennials (aged 18 – 33) passed Generation X and Baby Boomers to become the largest percentage of the U.S. workforce.  Yet, we know that many leadership positions are held by individuals classified as Boomers.


At Shannon Talent Solutions, we are more than recruiters, we are consultants who assist leaders to inspire others to be more productive and enjoy their employment.  In this article we will uncover a few ideas to help you work with different generations.

You could be a more experienced leader who is trying to understand how to oversee Millennials and Generation X employees.  Or maybe you are a younger leader who wants to develop their skills to become more efficient. The key is leaders must continually learn to become better which results in more successful companies.


Let’s look at how we can become more effective leaders.


Leading Millennials


One of the first things to recognize with Millennials is they thrive with customization.  Think about it, they have grown up in a world where they get to customize everything around them.  They don’t watch traditional T.V. so they do not see commercials, social media is all about them, technology allows for customizing their entire life, and they are accustomed to be in contact with others the entire time they are awake.

It should not be a surprise when research shows, “89% of Millennials would prefer to choose when and where they work rather than being placed in a 9-to-5 positions.”  


Here is where leadership comes into play.  Obviously Millennials cannot dictate all of their working conditions; however, as you lead them would it be possible to give some flexibility in work schedules?  Have you ever had a Millennial employee immediately reply to a message outside of traditional work hours?  The likely answer is yes.


Then why are they expected to work normal hours and be on-call after hours? Leading Millennials is not easy as they have lived in a world connected at all hours of the day and have difficulty following “traditional” sets of rules.  Yet, that can be an advantage to you and your business.  


Allow them to have a little more flexibility but don’t budge on expectations.  If a project is due by the end of the week, does it really matter if it is done during traditional business hours, at night, or from a coffee shop?  The overall expectation is for the project to be done with excellence, see if there is a way that you can work with them on a flexible schedule while still leading them to produce excellent work.


Takeaway: be flexible with Millennials while setting high expectations


Leading Generation X


Generation X (roughly the 20-year range older than Millennials), are unique. They are young enough to be technology savvy while old enough to value traditional work-life balance.  These people are the key to success as they are the bridge between younger and older generations.  Additionally, many individuals in this range are either in leadership positions now are will be in the coming years.


As you lead this group, begin to give them authority to groom them for higher levels of management.  They are likely not as structured as Boomers, yet still possess a work ethic and ability to solve creative problems.  Essentially, they possess the best, and worst, of the generations above and below them.


Generation X is known to be effective managers, “revenue generators, and are able to work well with differing groups of people.  Utilize these skill sets.  

Leadership is not about giving orders, instead, it is about pulling the best out of people are working toward a singular goal.


As a leader you have the luxury of an entire group of people who can become the moderators and future leaders of Millennials and your business.  Take advantage of their skill-set and understand they need to be taught the soft-skills of management which will see your company thrive.


Takeaway: groom Generation X employees to be leaders through soft-skill development and utilize their ability to bridge generations


Leading Boomers


Perhaps you are a Boomer or maybe you lead them.  In either case, Boomers are some of the most valuable members of any team as they hold decades of experiential knowledge.  They might not be the most technologically advanced, yet their years of experience has allowed them to see almost any business situation that arises.


Boomers have been classified as the most hardworking, the best “team-players,” and the best and “mentoring” others.  On the other hand, their main critique is their lack of adaptability.  Pause for a moment.


Boomer’s weaknesses are adapting while Millennial’s strengths are flexibility, yet Millennials are seen as not always working hard while Boomers are identified as the hardest working.  Here is where conflict can arise, and as a leader it is your responsibility to come to solutions.


Teach each generation the value system of the other and explain why they work in certain ways.  Doing so will create an atmosphere of trust and understanding to where each can work well with the other.  Perhaps, you can set up cross-generational meetings for team members to describe their values and the skills they bring to the company.  The point is there needs to be dialogue that is professional to utilize all the strengths within a business.

Boomers hold vast amounts of knowledge, yet everyone knows they are moving closer to retirement with Generation X and Millennials coming in as the next generations of high-level leaders.  Take the time needed to create systems where Boomers can share insights with others while training them to become a little more flexible.  Your company will see immediate dividends when you listen to Boomers while teaching them how to be more adaptable.


Takeaway: let Boomers hare their decades of knowledge while teaching them techniques in adaptability




This article was just a small sample of how different generations work and how to view them differently.  Leaders know times are changing and traditional business techniques must be altered.  This does not mean bending to the will of younger generations on all items, yet it is possible to create systems where each generation’s talents are maximized.


As a leader, take the time to:

  • Be flexible with Millennials while teaching them about excellence

  • Allow Generation X employees to be the moderators between generations and enhance their soft-skills

  • Take advantage of the insights Boomers possess and educate them on adapting to new business models

Your leadership is measured by where you take people and your company. Gone are the days of dictating bosses, we live in an era the looks up to executives who can lead groups of diverse employees through uncertain economic conditions.

Will you take on the challenge to become a great leader?


When you are ready to continue developing as a leader and building your team contact us, we are here to serve.

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