Written By: Paula Morand
How can your corporate leadership style fit everyone in your group when your employee base ranges from wired-in-20-somethings fresh out of school to seasoned professionals with decades in your industry?
No doubt your organization benefits from this range of talents, but keeping them all connected and motivated can be a monumental challenge. You can’t even generalize all that much because the range of personal communication styles and work preferences in each age group today tends to fluctuate wildly.
So how can you as a leader get across the priorities of the day to such a wide base and keep the full team moving in sinc, motivated and on target? Why not try this radical approach: meet your workforce at the “stage” they’re at, not the “age” on their driver’s license?
Let’s look first at communication. Technology rules the day regardless of what you may personally prefer, so it’s time as a leader to fully embrace all the systems you have at your fingertips. The “age” of your employees is not as important as the “stage” of technology each of them have embraced. Become the kind of leader who is equally comfortable using a combination of types of messaging, but ensure that each message conveys the same order of priorities and clear expectations.
This approach might call for duplication of effort, and some rather creative crafting, but think of the benefits. Anyone who likes bite-size 140-character missives is happy to hear from you. Those who like a full email message to refer to and respond to also get what they want. Internal message blasts or succinct posts to your intranet – yes, they got it!
In other words, post where people see it, using a range of media options so everyone feels connected. Just keep it consistent, timely and responsive. Maybe this creative approach is not your thing? Then assign a communication specialist to help you with crafting, posting and tracking interaction because communication today goes both ways. Be prepared to react to feedback immediately.
So the message is out but what’s next? How about motivation? As you probably know already, what’s appealing to the 20-somethings, mid-careers, and your mature workforce can be as different as night and day. Then you find out that not every 20-something is like their peers, and mature employees aren’t all about retirement dreams and exit strategies.
When it comes to motivation, everyone seems to click to different things. So again my advice is to think less about “age” and more about “stage”. The “stage” someone is in at work reflects their state of mind and their stage tells you more than their birth date ever could.
If someone is building career skills in a specific area, they will be motivated by opportunities to grow and ways to learn more. If someone is settling down in their personal life, regardless of their age, they’ll appreciate perks that work for their new lifestyle and which allow them sufficient time with their partner and to enjoy a satisfying personal life.
For people who have committed 10 or more years to your group, regardless of their age, many of them are at the “stage” where they are looking for upward mobility and ways to gain position and prestige. If you don’t offer enough progress for them, they’ll look elsewhere, and they’ll soon be looking at you and your company through their rear-view mirror.
The solution is to develop motivational strategies to meet your valuable employee assets at the “stage” they are at. Offer incentives that are geared to motivate them at the current point they are at in their career or lifestyle, and build on what works best.
Anyone might love an á-la-carte benefits list, flexible time-off, or remote work options but they do so for very different reasons. Perhaps they’ve got their eye on a mission trip overseas before their 30th birthday. Or they need a little extra time off each month to take care of an aging parent or a spouse going through cancer. Might be that they share childcare duties with a spouse on shift-work and coming in at 9:30 a.m. improves their life drastically, keeping them very highly motivated.
In summary, today’s technology and lifestyle choices have trumped the demographic divide so it’s time to ensure your leadership style meets the stages your employees are at, and doesn’t just program to the years spent on this earth.