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The Age of the Multigenerational Workforce

January 11, 2019 | Denise Froemming

Today’s workforce is truly multigenerational, with five generations at work. As a result of this diversity, many employers could have employees ranging from 18 to 80 in the workplace—each age group with its own set of experiences, views of the world and aspirations. There has been no time in history which has placed so much strain on an organization to manage not just the needs and expectations of millennials, Generation Xers and baby boomers, but to get each of the groups to collegially work together.

As the Society of Human Resource Management states, the multigenerational composition of many companies “creates challenges due to different communication styles, work practices and expectations from employers, but it also creates significant opportunities, as different generations bring different experiences and skills.” Studies indicate that multigenerational teams outperform more homogeneous groups by almost every measure. These varying perspectives of the world help in seeing more of the landscape and the organization’s place in this ecosystem—which is extremely powerful.

At a recent event held by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), I had the pleasure of both hearing, and then having a private conversation with, Kim Lear, a writer and researcher, who explored how emerging trends impact the future of our workforce and marketplace. Kim is the founder and content director of Inlay Insights, a cutting-edge research firm which is a leader in uncovering the cultural shifts that revolutionize how organizations engage employees and consumers. Kim employs eye-opening statistics to accentuate her points and mixes them with stories and case studies to make her message come alive.

During her address at the ASAE leadership session, Kim stressed the importance of building relationships across generations and focusing less on rules and more on results. She highlighted the fact that when individuals come together and talk about generations, they start focusing on stereotypes negatively, stating “who’s right / who’s wrong, who’s better / who’s worse, and who came first and knew it all along.” Kim stated that, “what needs to happen is to harmonize that relationship and come together in a synergistic way.” She noted that her concentration is on helping organizations bridge these gaps and bring diverse thoughts to the table, as this is where innovation is ignited.

Specifically, multiple generations in an organization generate a chance for individuals to learn from one another and hear different perspectives on the same ideas. Several organizations have employed “reverse mentoring” to engender enhanced collaboration where younger employees share their technology know-how and tips.  

She cited Apple as a great example of successfully bringing together different generations, stating that, “Whether you are purchasing a new mobile device, visiting the Genius Bar or calling for online tech support—you will be pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the workforce.”  

Real estate management is at a crossroads where new technologies, new efficiencies and improved levels of customer service are threatening the current way of doing business. Organizations need to prepare for the future and adjust to this “new normal” by:

  • Understanding each generation and the events that shaped their workplace attitudes and expectations, ultimately leveraging the different perspectives;
  • Working closely with their HR partners to anticipate attracting, retaining and developing this multigenerational workforce; and
  • Evaluating the “Sacred Cows”—deciding what needs to be held onto and what needs to be let go of.

Ultimately, success will be achieved when common ground is acknowledged and celebrated.

On a final note, property managers might want to consider going beyond the office to apply some of these same techniques for understanding and communicating with others not necessarily in their own generational category. The sensitivities aren’t exclusive to colleagues in the workplace. Think about the tenants, prospective tenants, vendors, brokers, etc. with whom you come into contact. Here’s to reaching a new level of communication success!

About the Author
Denise Froemming, CAE, MBA, CPA, is CEO and Executive Vice President of IREM.

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