Although it sounds quantitative, value in a multi-generational workplace has a qualitative value.

Why the emphasis on value?

Well, simply put, the challenge of communication and retention among a generationally diverse workforce is at this point, a cliché. We are where we are, it’s time to pivot the conversation among managers, directors and executives from exasperated to excited.

Last summer, Gen Z stepped into the workforce, and leaders had to quickly learn that muddling them in with Millenials was not in the least bit effective. This added to the already complex talent bench that sits everyone from the Traditionalist board member to the late-to-retire Baby Boomer, then the uber independent Gen X’er and finally the social Millennial.

Anyone leading today’s workforce should consider approaching each generation with the same curiosity you would if hiring or doing business with someone from another culture. While some gestures may be valued in one country, it isn’t in another - like a big wave of your hands when speaking. In many places in Europe, it’s accepted and can quite possibly add to your trust and relatability, while the exact same movement is offensive in many Asian countries.

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In your organization the spectrum of value is just as varied, and an exciting landscape for you to navigate as a manager, leader or executive to drive the best from your workforce.  Let’s take a look at the paradigm of value across generations:

TRADITIONALIST: Age 72-80

  • Places a strong emphasis on rules, and likes to see leadership with a "command and control" style.
  • Prefer formal communication and interaction, specifically face-to-face.

BABY BOOMERS: Age 54-71

  • Many can't afford to retire and want to work part time or contract.
  • Personal fulfillment and identity is often derived through work.

GEN X: Age 33-53

  • Prefer independence and fewer rules, but wants to belong to a group communicating directly with leaders.  
  • Seek to balance work and family.

MILLENIAL’S: Age 22 - 33

  • Takes an entrepreneurial approach to work, craves to be authentic in an social environment.
  • Prefer direct communication and feedback.

GEN Z: Under 21

  • Feels positive about the future, and aspires for safety and security.
  • Not blind to the limitations of technology, although prefers to communicate via immediate sound bites.

Although it is impossible to please everyone, it is extremely possible for you as a leader to start the conversations that take into account what the individuals on your team value. What would that conversation sound like? Simple, start with this one question:

“What do you value the most about working here?”

The answer to this will spawn an interesting conversation, one that I encourage you to have in a group of varied ages. In my years of leading and consulting those that do, there are fundamental aspects of communication that every human values, take these with you as a resource to facilitate a value-driven conversation with your team:

Being listened to.

Feeling respected.

Receiving positive feedback.

Understanding the big picture.

Experiencing an exchange of ideas.

Receiving effective communication.

Having opportunities to mentor or be mentored.

I’m interested to hear the results of your value-conversation, feel free to comment on this post or email me.