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Generations in the workplace and how to manage them

Managing different generations in the workplace calls for a clearer understanding of their characteristics, which will then help shape recruitment and retention strategies.

Treating employees as individuals seems like a humane and logical practice, but organizations may stumble when they misunderstand the characteristics of the generations in the workplace.

Presenters at the MSPWorld conference discussed the multigenerational workforce, which includes baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Y -- the much-discussed millennials -- and Generation Z. Managers may make assumptions about the generational cohorts, sometimes misunderstanding their characteristics or lumping one group with another.

Jason Dorsey, a speaker and researcher on Generation Z and millennials, gave one of the keynote addresses at MSPWorld. Confusion over managing different generations in the workplace is all the more problematic in the IT sector, which has been struggling to find -- and keep -- talent.

"This industry is under siege when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees," Dorsey said.

He said organizations seeking new recruits get off to a bad start when they write job ads. Dorsey's study of millennials reveals that most of them read only the first two sentences of a job description before they decide whether or not to move to the next job description. His advice to rise about the want ad crowd: "Make the first two sentences interesting."

Recruiters should also understand that millennials are a risk-averse generation. So, if a company is looking to recruit millennials from out of state, they should take care to "derisk" the move as much as possible, Dorsey said.

Generation Z is absolutely not millennials 2.0.
Jason DorseyGenerational speaker and researcher

Recruitment is just the beginning, of course. Managing various generations in the workplace calls for a better understanding of the groups. Generation Z, for example, may be conflated with their millennial predecessors but have their own distinctive characteristics. Dorsey said Generation Z tends to be extremely fiscally conservative -- 12% of this group is already saving for retirement. In addition, employers are finding a higher retention rate with Generation Z, he noted.

"Generation Z is absolutely not millennials 2.0," Dorsey said.

Other things to consider include shopworn phrases, such as "business casual," which may mean entirely different things to baby boomers than they do to other generations in the workplace. Dorsey said it is better to show -- through images or video -- what an organization considers business casual than just dropping the phrase and expecting employees to understand.

Generation X, often neglected in discussions of managing different generations in the workplace, brings another set of considerations to organizations. Dorsey said this generational group tends to be naturally skeptical, loyal to individuals rather than companies and may be facing the demands of parenting and taking care of aging parents, Dorsey noted.

Ron Venzin, partner at Focal Point Solutions Group, presented on staffing issues at MSPWorld. Like Dorsey, Venzin said organizations would do well to take into account differences among the generations in the workplace.

"Boomers, millennials or Generation Z -- they are all different and need to be treated differently," Venzin said. He said the management approach should fit their generational personalities.

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