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Posted 02/11/2016

How to Avoid Negativity, Friction, and Conflict in a Multi-Generational Workforce

A one-size-fits-all leadership or management strategy never proves effective for precision manufacturers. Neither does pandering to a particular group of employees. Those techniques merely incite more division, creating a costly never-ending rollercoaster of drama. Granted, each human being is unique and worthy of respect, but business is…well, business. Therefore, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials must work in accord to satisfy a manufacturers’ quality and production goals. So how does management create harmony among employees? How does management accommodate employees who each bring distinct sets of skills and abilities to the table? How do you recognize where the rubber meets the road to keep business on track? Here are four strategies:  First, unless you know the kind of challenges you’ll face; you can’t prepare. So, before setting managers out on the floor, invest in training them to recognize specific characteristics of each generations’ differences in expectations, values, cultures, and preferences. For example, according to the Wall Street Journal,
  • Boomers think workers should pay their dues,
  • Gen Xers are skeptical and independent-minded, and
  • Millennials like feedback, teamwork, and technology.
A successful manager:
  • Learns the underlying psychology of each generation’s work mindset and communication
  • Adapts to the various styles while neither blanket stereotyping them nor coddling them
  Second, accommodate personal needs when reasonable, but do so without sacrificing parity. It is up to you as a manager to be an equalizer. Different ages have different needs with different requests for flexibility in scheduling. For example,
  • A Boomer may want to reduce the number of working hours for which he would receive less pay.
  • A Gen Xer might need to attend her child’s school activity, and, therefore, need to make up lost hours.
  • A Millennial may be pursuing a degree and need to work alternately longer and shorter days to maintain a class schedule.
They are different needs, but each requires understanding flexibility and melding the requests in a way that best fits each one without losing valuable work time on the floor and hindering your manufacturing process. Third, build collaborative relationships and opportunities for cross-generational mentoring. Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School, suggests that a manager gets to know each person individually. Personalization reduces labeling and helps a manager recognize individual talents and skills, which in turn, helps in effective team-building. This takes some effort but pays off over time. Cappelli’s suggestions include:
  • Giving everyone a voice. Even when you don’t heed their advice, discussion – where people are heard and understood - helps them to feel involved and valued.
  • Older employees may naturally fall into a mentoring role while younger people may find it easier to accept advice from a more experienced worker rather than a peer because they are not competing in the same way. Conversely, an older worker benefits from a younger person’s fresh perspective.
  Fourth, establish a meaningful variety of enticements. One size doesn’t fit all so offer choices. These could include:
  • Offering information to accommodate different learning styles. Boomers may like handbooks while younger workers prefer technological interactivity.
  • Providing regular training and educational opportunities. For example, for employees who wish to engage beyond their job descriptions, consider task force teams for problem-solving or special projects.
  • Creating recognition and incentive programs. Nothing motivates more than a public “thank you” for work well done. Millennials especially appreciate frequent
  • Considering the characteristics of your staff’s life path. Depending on age, culture and value, this will help determine which incentives help enlist motivation. Whether funding a Linked-In account, holding a game night, gifting a logoed shirt, or bolstering a retirement provision, different things appeal to different ages.
Successful managers set the pace. No matter the precision manufacturing job or the age group, treating your employees with the same respect, courtesy, and consideration that you would prefer to be treated with is a good place to start. Moreover, when leaders consistently demonstrate positive relational traits and expectations, employees honor the manager. They also use the manager’s leadership as a guide of how to treat others. Generally, in the workplace, we do as we see others do. Talk to MPS Technical to find qualified employees of all ages. Not only do we understand the needs of precision manufacturing companies, but we also have listened to and understand the talented people we have as candidates. We can offer you a great match with seamless onboarding. We have a convenient location to serve you. Let’s talk today.