Four Steps to Propel Success
By: Jamie Headley
For the first time in our nation’s history, four generations (and soon to be five) work alongside each other. Manufacturers now find themselves trying to balance age gaps that can span upwards of 50 years between the youngest and oldest employees. What can be done so every generation of your workforce is engaged? Here are four key actions that management should take to help their employees thrive:
1. Embrace different values – Each generation brings an array of skills and experience to the workplace. Different generations also are known for being motivated by and valuing different things. For example, Baby Boomers tend to be loyal to a company and value perks and prestige, while Millennials are highly engaged when they are passionate about a particular issue or cause. It’s critical for leaders to embrace each generation’s values because the one-size-fits-all approach no longer works.
2. Encourage mentoring opportunities – Promote a culture of generation-to-generation mentorship. Whether it’s a knack for utilizing the latest technology or possessing decades of in-depth knowledge on a particular subject, your staff should take advantage of their co-workers’ invaluable expertise. By creating a mentoring system in which the youngest employees learn from the seasoned professionals and vice versa, you will realize relationship-building at its best. The mentoring concept is an important element in the area of succession planning also.
3. Provide flexible training options – From onboarding to yearly training, be open to new ideas and flexible with each approach. Younger generations tend to have shorter attention spans, so training works best when it is broken down in segments that are five minutes or less. (Yes, using mobile devices to get your message across is a must.) Other employees might benefit from just-in-time learning—the skills are imparted immediately to help avoid loss of retention due to a time gap. Not sure which option is best? Ask your team for feedback.
4. Lead by example – Sometimes, the best way to learn is to listen. Develop unique and specific relationships with each person you have the opportunity to work with. A leader who encourages these one-on-one relationships focuses on the staff’s generational needs and values, creating an environment where employees want to work. So keep the lines of communication open.
While it takes time and a concerted effort to build and maintain a culture where multiple age groups are engaged in their work, generational differences actually can be beneficial to the overall operation—and success—of your business.
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Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.