How to handle the management of people with different generations
With almost as much frequency that “digital transformation” or “customer experience”, today the term “millennial” is used in the business world to refer to the generation to which the majority of the world's economically active population belongs.
And with this, you can find various theories related to how people of this generation behave or, in relation to what concerns us, related to the proper management of this group of people in the workplace.
In principle, I consider that people management is something too complex to be reduced to just understanding generational differences . Next I will explain why.
What are generations?
A generation is defined as a group of people who were born around a certain time horizon and in a nearby place  . People who belong to one generation usually have similar preferences, beliefs, and values.
Currently at least five “active” generations are recognized:
- Traditionalists (or “Silent” Generation): 1945 or earlier
- Baby Boomers: 1946-1964
- Generation "X": 1965 - 1976
- Millennials or Generation “Y”: 1977 - 1995
- Centennials or Generation “Z”: 1996 - To be defined
It is assumed that each generation shows different characteristics in relation to their communication, shopping and motivation styles, basically because each group has experienced different tendencies in relation to these aspects.
This segmentation model is used very often to understand parenting patterns, technology and economics, but it is also used to explain much of consumer behaviors and styles in the workplace, all of this of interest to marketers, parents of family, politicians, educators and of course, employers.
Clearly, the generation that is most talked about is the “Millennials”, particularly because they are a large part of the economic force and apparently have quite different attitudes to the preceding groups.
Problems with the Generations Model:
Like any model, this way of segmenting people by their age group is not perfect, especially because it covers very wide ranges of time. But in addition, it has the following difficulties:
- It contradicts the original definition of generation, which implies taking into account not only the time but also the place of origin. Even with the levels currently reaching the dissemination of information, a “Millennial” from China is very different from one from Peru.
- Its origins are in market research, which has clear interests in people's consumption habits. It is from there that an attempt has been made to deduce patterns in the other dimensions of people's behavior, but this may be forced.
- It is a very small simplification of the complexity of people's behavior. We clearly know that there are many other factors that affect it, such as personality, the level of development of society, the degree of education, experiences, among others.
People Management, not Generations:
As a general culture, it seems important to us to know the existence of the generations and their main characteristics, as some elements are interesting to improve our way of defining behaviors. However, we consider that for people management, we fall very short if we only think about the generational model.
In an interesting article titled Every Generation Wants Meaningful Work - but Thinks Other Age Groups Are in It for the Money , it is explained very well how meaningful work is not only a value of older generations, but that each generation defines it in a different way. different. But above all, that the generational model generates stereotypes that, rather than facilitating the understanding of attitudes, generates conflicts, to the extent that patterns are assumed. In this regard, I consider that effectively, to think that we know everything about a person just because of his age, is to put aside everything that is known about leadership today. The right thing to do is to invest time to get to know people in different dimensions and based on this, support them for their development.
In another publication in the same vein titled Generational Differences At Work Are Small. Thinking They're Big Affects Our Behavior , it is postulated that generational differences are not so many and that stereotypes related to generations inappropriately influence the behaviors of other employees in a workplace; with which, rather than being useful, the generational model is harmful.
Yes, it is true that the younger generations prefer, for example, to communicate by chat than by phone (the same happened when the phone was created and face-to-face conversation was left aside a bit). But this, more to do with age, has to do with the most available technology. If chat were not practical and effective, we would surely continue to talk more on the phone (and today “Millennials” and those of Generation “X” use chat almost all the time).
Another interesting example is how important remuneration is for a collaborator, compared to other dimensions, classified under what is called “emotional salary”. Well today, most of us give less weight to money than before, and we value the climate and opportunities for development of an organization. This has nothing to do with generations, but with current trends in people management. Yes, it is probable that a father of a family with 2 children in university (Generation "X") has to give more weight to the economic salary than to the other aspects, due to the natural burden that it entails; and that a "Millennial" can worry for a few more years about the "emotional salary." But this "Millennial" will be a father in a few years (a little later perhaps) and with it their priorities will change.
More than worrying about how to understand and manage each of the generations present in your organization, you should worry about knowing more about each person, today and at each stage of their working life (here our Comprehensive People Management Model ).
On the other hand, it is necessary to understand that individualities are as important as common behaviors (groups), and that the latter cannot be reduced to a single dimension (such as age).
(To select and then manage the people on your team, you can start by using our IPCC Model , which has 4 dimensions: intelligence, personality, skills and knowledge.)
Finally, manage people, NOT "Millennials" (or any other group you think you know).