Today’s managers are the first ones to manage four generations at the same time: Millennials, Gen X, Boomers and Traditionalists, ranging in age from the twenties to the seventies. Many employers could easily add a fifth, tentatively named “Generation Z,” which started in 1996 and now includes everyone younger than 21.
What’s most interesting about this phenomenon is that the manager might belong to any one of these generations, and manage people from all the others. This isn’t as complex as it seems, because the “generation gap” is nothing like it once was. To give you just one example of how it’s decreased, in past decades older people and younger people listened to different music – often to completely different kinds of music. Now there’s almost a 2 in 3 chance that any given person, and their grandparents, will like many of the same artists.
In a similar way, expectations of managers have also become more uniform across generations. “The employee-work contract has changed,” a recent study from Deloitte found, concluding that today’s top employees want to be “sensitive, passionate, creative contributors.” Managers of any generation can target this desire and get exceptional contributions from employees of every generation.
But for that to work, you have to be retro and futuristic at the same time.
All generations love the Internet. The only thing that makes the Millennials and Generation Z “digital natives” is the fact that they’ve never lived without it. From management’s point of view, the biggest impact is that people who are inundated with information and constant input from others have a much sharper ability to detect when someone is being “authentic” or not.
Your employees want to be authentic contributors to your business, and for them to engage at that level, they have to feel that you are being authentic with them. No amount of digitization can accomplish that for you. Authenticity requires a certain level of transparency so that your employee feels that he or she understands the big picture.
And it requires a certain level of flexibility on your part. When you engage your employee and make space for them to be creative contributors, you need to respond to their input and their ideas constructively. Many of the executives we serve find that managing like this can be much easier, because employees often have excellent ideas, and when you incorporate those ideas, your employee owns the change and wants to make it work.
The challenge then becomes developing a flexible way to manage your business. Certain things don’t change; throughput and quality, for example, will always be top-level concerns. But how you accomplish throughput and quality might change, based upon creative contributions from your employees.
The Deloitte study found that the best run companies “continuously adjust management practices and the work environment.” A more futuristic way of managing people can certainly help you do that. The essential component is making sure that you track those top-level goals all the time. You may need to be a bit more transparent with some of your data to make that real. But once you’ve got an objective measure of business-critical work, then you have more freedom to think about how to accomplish that work.
A platform such as RESULTS keeps the top-level goal front and center at meetings, at one-on-ones, and on the employee’s dashboard. Everyone can see if the the goal is being met. Underneath the goal you can make exactly the adjustments Deloitte found so important. Meetings can be about how to accomplish the goal, and new tasks and approaches can be outlined within the platform. They can be tried and tested and, the whole time, their impact on the status of the goal is right there for all to see.
Many managers find that their employees consider this a more authentic work experience. When someone’s idea improves your business, that’s also out there for everyone to see. Management like this can create a culture of excellence, and a much more team-oriented work environment.