How to Manage a Multigenerational Finance Team (and Not Go Totally Insane)

With baby boomers, generation Xers and millennials all in the workforce, it can be a challenge to successfully manage a multigenerational finance team.  Each generation brings its own expectations and values to the table.  This can create conflict and misunderstandings if not managed correctly.  Here are some tips to leading a multigenerational finance team to success.

Open Dialogue
According to Sarah Gibson, an author and speaker on multigenerational issues, maintaining an open dialogue is key to managing workers of different generations.  Gibson says, “Managers often shy away from generational conversations to avoid discussing age.”  But ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away, so try and facilitate understanding between members of your team.

Pro Tip:  Host an initial training session on each generation’s style and characteristics.  Have a second meeting where you identify each team member’s strengths and how they might benefit the team.

And remember:

  • Those of Generation Y extend a much shorter grace period to new managers, while workers from older cohorts are typically more patient.
  • Younger workers are more likely to be loyal to a manager, while older workers are more likely to be loyal to a company.

Resource:  Read this article for tips on improving team performance through effective communication.

Change

One of the key sources of tension among the different generations in the workplace is how they view change.

  • This means that an effective management style includes talking about how change will be implemented.
  • Gibson believes that each generation may feel threatened by change in different ways.  For example, Gibson says that baby boomers may be concerned about the implementation of a new technology or system and the impact it might have on their competitive edge and status.
  • This makes talking about change management critical to successfully leading a multigenerational team involved in organizational transition.

The Non-Negotiables
In 2015 millennials became the largest group in the workforce.  Millennials value flexibility and opportunities to lead.  And since retaining a millennial workforce is critical to the success of any organization, it makes sense to incorporate flexibility and leadership opportunities into workplace policy.

That being said, establishing some core expectations that reach across all generations is necessary to maintaining a unified team.  These core expectations are non-negotiable for workers of all ages

Understand Strengths
Managing a multigenerational finance team means understanding the strengths of different cohorts.  Millennials are a product of a non-linear environment, where multi-tasking is the name of the game.  This means that they may flourish in companies that allow them to juggle multiple priorities with opportunities for quick wins.  Older generations, on the other hand, may prefer projects with longer timelines and more planning.

The Danger of Assumptions
According to a research paper entitled “The Multigenerational Workplace and Organizational Culture” millennials, in particular, are sensitive to generalizations based on their age.  Always remember, therefore, that you’re dealing with individuals and that conversations should focus on understanding that team member’s personal drivers.

Key Takeaways
The key to successfully navigating the challenging waters of a multigenerational finance team is consistent, open communication.  Establish a set of core expectations that span across the generations.  Regardless of the reason for conflict, nip signs of discontent between team members in the early stages.  And even though there are certain characteristics that each generation demonstrates, an individual’s drivers may differ from that of their cohort.  This makes regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings critical for team success.  Finally, make sure to discuss how change will be implemented and provide mentoring and support for your team.  This investment of time and energy will help keep your multigenerational team on the track to success.

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