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How to Manage Employees of Different Ages with Insight

May 31, 2019

Your dealership’s employees likely represent a mix of age groups. Successfully managing employees across generations requires understanding these generational trends while avoiding broad stereotypes.

Four generations co-exist

Definitions vary slightly, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation defines today’s generations as follows: Members of the Baby Boomer generation were born from 1946 to 1964. Members of Generation X were born from 1965 to 1979. Members of the Millennial generation were born from 1980 to 1999. And members of Generation Z were born after 1999.

Adapt your management style

Broadly speaking, Millennial and Generation Z employees can’t be handled effectively in the same way that Baby Boomers and Generation X employees are. This means that you and your managers must learn how to adapt your management style to fit employees of these generations.

For example, many Millennials and Gen Z employees like, or even expect, to receive regular feedback about their performance, as well as public recognition and praise when they’ve done well. While most Baby Boomers and Gen Xers also enjoy positive performance feedback, they may also derive personal satisfaction from a job well done.

Employees from different generations also tend to have their own views of company loyalty. Many younger employees, for example, are more loyal to their principles and their co-workers than they are to an organization, while many older employees feel a greater sense of company loyalty. Keep these and other differences in mind when managing employees across generations.

Recognize the generations’ diverse views toward compensation. While money is valued to some degree by employees across generations, younger employees tend to prioritize salary less than older workers. For example, according to a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a high salary ranks just fifth on the list of motivating factors for Millennial employees.

Different strokes for different folks

Misunderstandings and conflicts often arise due to value differences between managers and employees of different generations. For example, many older managers expect employees to be willing to do “whatever it takes” to get the job done, including working long hours. However, many younger employees place a high value on achieving work-life balance.

When possible, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who are managing younger employees should try to be flexible when it comes to scheduling. But this doesn’t mean young employees shouldn’t be required to work hard. The key is to find the right balance so that work is accomplished satisfactorily and on time, and young employees feel like their values are being respected.

Different generations tend to bring different strengths to the workplace. For example, many younger employees have strong computer and technical skills, while many older employees have valuable industry experience, wisdom and insight.

Try to create situations where employees from diverse generations can work together on teams and share their knowledge and strengths with each other. In doing so, encourage them to communicate openly and honestly and to be willing to learn from — instead of compete with — each other. 

Get to know them

Good managers understand the demographic trends that affect the workforce, but avoid making sweeping generalizations about their own staffs. Instead, they try to get to know each employee individually to better determine “what makes them tick” and adapt their management strategies accordingly.

© 2019