Have you found yourself wondering why your co-worker has multiple body piercings? Or does your boss always focus on the “rules” and conformity, while you think he or she should just leave you alone so that you can work? Either way, these are the effects of cross-generational differences.

For the first time ever, the workforce in the United States consists of four generations working along side each other, from workers born during World War II, to those who were born not knowing what it is like to live without a microwave. Those generations are:

• World War II Generation (born before 1940)
• Baby Boomer (born 1941 to 1964)
• Generation X (born 1965 to 1980)
• Millennial Generation (born 1980 to 2000)
Regardless of one’s birth date, all four generations of employees, working together must learn to respect each other’s differences.

What Smart Employers Know
The knowledge, skills and workplace attributes possessed by today’s multi-generational workforce present multiple challenges and opportunities to business leaders. Smart employers realize that one of the keys to growing and succeeding in an increasingly competitive global marketplace is recruiting and managing talent drawn from workers of all ages. Successfully managing an intergenerational workforce is becoming a business imperative that few organizations can ignore.

If you want to become that employer of choice, you may want to make an assessment of the generational issues and potential in your workforce by asking yourself the following questions:

1. What is the generational composition of our workforce? Are we hiring and promoting fairly to address any disparity in treatment?
2. What will the generational composition of our workforce be in five years? How are we working to meet the needs of that future workforce? This is where succession management comes in to play.
3. What is the generational composition of our customers? Do we have a workforce that is equipped to understand their needs?
4. What will the generational composition of our customers be in five years? Are we building our workforce to meet the customer’s needs in the future?

Best Practices for Hiring Across Generations
Companies that are most successful at recruiting & retaining across generations have some common “best practices:”

1. Study generational composition and use the information in many HR strategies
2. Train about generations in a variety of formats
3. Match workforce to customer base
4. Include all generations on boards & councils
5. Support continuing education
6. Reward managers for retention
7. Reward performance and productivity
8. Offer mentoring programs
9. Offer flexible scheduling
10. Offer a wide variety of benefits

While there have been many books and articles written on the generational topic, the bottom line is that bridging the generational divide still comes down to the individual. Generally speaking, we can put people in their generational buckets, but as business leaders and managers we don’t manage or lead buckets, we lead individuals. For more information and tips on generational issues visit the Center for Generational Studies at www.gentrends.com. IBI