Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce

Phil Nardone

The modern world has never seen a workforce more generationally diverse. Seeing three generations of employees working side-by-side at a company is not at all unusual. However, this presents challenges in any workforce, but especially in a professional services (agency-client) setting. Often, a client can be much older or much younger than members of agency team. And while it can be challenging, I am always entertained when I see this and the communications differences that occur as a result.

Indeed, the workforce is continually evolving. Today, millennial employees are taking on more responsibility than ever. According to a recent Deloitte study, nearly half of Millennials (45%) are already in leadership roles. This was not the case for Baby Boomers (my generation), or Gen Xers, who were less likely to serve in leadership positions at the same age. Millenials have certainly captured the headlines, but other generations are also dramatically impacting the workforce. According to the AARP, by 2014, nearly one-third of the total U.S. workforce (32%) will be age 50 or older. And Baby Boomers that are reaching retirement age are expecting to postpone retirement as they see their nest-eggs diminish.

Often, this can lead to inter-generational conflict. One recent study by Lee Hecht Harrison found that more than 60 percent of businesses were experiencing these issues. However, the same study noted that those very differences could ultimately lead to new business opportunities, solutions and success.

Each generation has a different and valuable perspective and contribution. I encourage all of our employees to share their opinions, ideas and thoughts. When we hire a recent graduate or an intern, I make it a point to let them know that a PR firm is not a place to be a wall-flower, regardless of age or title. And when we hire a seasoned PR professional, I tell them keep to an open mind and don’t overlook the potential of millennial employees.

I don’t have all the answers and I find it fascinating when one of my millennial employees comes to me with a new idea that I have never considered, or a social media channel I have never heard of. I’ll often ask them to partner with a more senior staff member to see the project through to execution and I learn a lot in that process. As a leader, I look to put responsibility in younger employee’s hands because I think it’s critical to a company’s future success. To empower millennials you need to provide an environment where they have a voice and give them the tools to succeed (proper job training is also key).

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At PAN Communications, we strive for a diverse work environment with employees ranging from recent college graduates to those of us well into our careers. We have always hired people that have made PR a second career – which puts them side-by-side next to a millennial as they learn the profession. Our multi-generational workforce allows us to offer our clients a unique perspective as we develop and execute PR programs. While managing a multi-generational workforce can be challenging in and of itself, if everyone understands each other’s “value-add,” having a multi-generational workforce is actually a tremendous asset. Partnering employees of different ages and different points in their careers, creates new energy, unique ideas and out of the box thinking. Bottom-line, it helps PAN deliver the very best in client service.

At the end of the day, the most successful employee at PAN is engaged & respectful of working with others – all making for a better PAN culture. Talent is at a premium these days, but what we search for in a PAN employee is a skilled, motivated team player that will help our clients and our agency get results and innovate. The rest is up to us!!

But I am curious—how does your organization deal with multi-generational workforces? What are the unique challenges and opportunities that you see as a result? Do you value a multi-generational workforce? How do you capture the potential of each generations’ contribution on a client team?

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