James Henderson

How to manage a multi-generational workforce

The workforce of today now spans four generations, each housing distinct characteristics, varied motivations and changing demands of employers.

While exact birth range dates vary depending on the literature, the multi-generational workforce can best be divided into:

  • Gen Z (1997-2005)
  • Millennials (1981-1996)
  • Gen X (1965-1980)
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

Some may even include The Silent Generation (1925-1945) into the mix but either way, understanding what motivates each demographic is proving to be crucial in helping companies more effectively recruit, manage and retain strong teams.

The importance of such understanding is heightened further by an ongoing talent shortage and skills crisis – one that continues to threaten the growth ambitions of the technology ecosystem.

“Building and managing teams is complicated, especially as workforce demographics and priorities shift,” said Paul McDonald, Senior Executive Director at Robert Half. “Ultimately, all professionals want to feel supported and valued.

Multi-generational workforce

“Understanding what makes different generations tick and striving to create a work environment that addresses their various needs can go a long way toward improving engagement, productivity and retention.”

Citing Multigenerational Workforce findings – a new report from recruitment firm Robert Half – McDonald outlined key considerations for employers:

  • Money matters most for most workers: A competitive salary with regular merit increases has the biggest impact on job satisfaction and retention for Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Gen Z is the only generation for whom other factors ranked higher than compensation. In addition, Gen X workers (32%) are most likely to feel underpaid.

“Research and benchmark salaries on a regular basis,” McDonald advised.

  • Gen Z wants the best of both worlds: One-third of Gen Z professionals prefer to choose when and where to work. At the same time, they crave more in-person interactions than employees of other generations. And six in 10 are concerned about missing out on project opportunities and promotions when working remotely.

“Consider implementing a flexible work policy that allows for both remote options and purposeful in-office time for training and team building activities,” McDonald said.

  • AI is weighing on workers’ minds: Despite being digitally savvy, 78% of Gen Z professionals are concerned about AI impacting their job, versus 48% of Millennials, 40% of Gen Xers and only 27% of Baby Boomers. That said, workers of all generations would rather undergo training to reskill for a new role at their current company than pursue a different position if their job was at risk.

“Provide opportunities for employees at all levels to learn new skills, stay up to date with technology and explore different career paths within your company,” McDonald recommended.

  • Contract work is attractive to younger professionals: Half of Gen Zers who are looking for a new job in 2023 are interested in full-time contract work. Contract roles appeal to many people due to the opportunity to take on a variety of assignments and work at different companies to build skills and connections.

“Consider hiring contract professionals who have specialised skills and fresh ideas that can help your business stay nimble,” McDonald suggested.

  • Deal breakers are similar across generations: Though not in the same order, all generations rank a lack of salary transparency, unclear or unreasonable job responsibilities and poor communication with a hiring manager among the top reasons to withdraw from consideration for an open role.

“Be upfront about salaries and job responsibilities with candidates,” McDonald cautioned.


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