"I Need to Listen and Be Open to Their Ideas." - The voice of a baby boomer.


Still a number of years away from retirement, a baby boomer was commenting on working with, hiring and managing Generation X and Generation Y (millennials).

Particularly with the millennials, she recognised that, “I can’t overlay my experience on their experience or judge their decision-making on my values. I may think that my way is best, but perhaps it isn’t. I need to quietly listen and be open to their input and ideas.”


“The world has changed. My values are not their values. We think differently. But we can learn from each other.”


What else has changed?

  • Millennials hop around. They don’t feel shame and there is no stigma moving from company to company. It’s today’s norm.
  • I have to recognise that it’s not a bad thing that their resume says they have had three jobs in fairly quick succession. I have to look at them differently when hiring and be more open.
  • When onboard, I must work harder to keep the millennials engaged.
  • Incorporating ‘fun’ into the environment is critical or they will be out the door.
  • Cross training helps keep them energised and interested, especially if the ladder going up is short on opportunities.
  • If they don’t know something, they ask. We never asked for fear of being judged. They are more honest.
  • They are also more open to change than those of us who are older. This is a good attribute as change is constant.


Millennials – a good place to start

It’s predicted that by 2024, 75 percent of the global workforce will be millennials. Also known as Generation Y, they have been roughly classified as those born between 1981-1996, following their Generation X predecessors 1965 -1980.

With this high percentage, focusing on millennials is a good place to start. When you get them through your door, how are you going to keep them from hopping around? In short, you need to nail employee rewards and retention or off they go to other companies where their talent and potential will be recognised.


Here are a few tips to keep them interested enough to hang around:

  • Hire the right managers. Eight out of 10 millennials look to a manager to act as mentor/coach.
  • You need managers who have good listening abilities; who are transparent; and who will explain the big picture. The old management style of aggressively driving a straight line to results won’t work.
  • Train your current managers with a focus on what millennials and other generations value.
  • Think internally when hiring. If millennials don’t see a chance to move up, they move out. Consider existing staff first.
  • Ask millennials for their advice. They want to contribute, learn and be actively involved. They crave knowledge.
  • Provide constant feedback and show appreciation for their work. They want to know how they are doing, and they want to know today.
  • Fully engage them if change is on the horizon. They can be anxious about their jobs.
  • Conduct your own e-survey to find out what is important and what you need to know, not just for millennials, but for all groups.

Power-up your company

Although millennials will dominate the workforce, you want to cast your net across the entire generational talent pool to attract diverse strengths to power-up your company.  Older workers bring enormous experience and a strong work ethic to the plate; Gen X are talented, hard working and want long-term stability. Gen Y are technologically savvy, curious, outspoken and keen to learn.

A whopping 74 percent of millennials prefer to collaborate in small groups. This puts a focus on teamwork and communication. Mix up the generational teams for broad-based learning and sharing of information.

Working in groups means understanding individual strengths and weaknesses. Combined with skills and attitude, high performing team dynamics come together only when individual personality traits are understood. You want to utilise the strengths of each employee to maximise the productivity of the team.


The new world of HR

Bridging the generational gap is not only a company wide issue, but a critical HR challenge.

Here are a few things HR needs to think about and do:

  • Know the generational cohorts in your company. Data analytics can help you understand your workforce.
  • Identify what each generation values and wants.
  • Build management training around these values and expectations.
  • Revamp your benefits package. Couple your traditional policies with innovative privileges such as flexible schedules and working remotely. *
  • Build fun into your culture (fun describes a millennial’s dream job).
  • Have a transparent communications policy.
  • Prioritise a healthy work-life balance.
  • Create cross mentoring programs; millennials are brilliant with technology, and the older generations know how to communicate.

*According to a Deloitte study, nearly 75 percent of millennials believe that a ‘work from home’ or ‘work remotely’ policy is important.


Recruit and train with the multigenerational workforce in mind.

Just like the extinct dodo bird, the ‘9-5’ traditional way of doing business will continue its decline as each generation imparts their values. This doesn’t have to be scary. It just means that you need a keen understanding of generational differences, how each generation interacts with others and what you need to put in place to keep them all happy and motivated.

Bring the generations together. Build positive and collaborative relationships throughout your company. It will serve you well.


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