How to Best Lead a Multigenerational IT Team
Baby boomers, millennials, gen Xers, silents and gen zers all pose different challenges to managers in the workplace. Here's how to align your team.
Credit: ShutterstockToday's businesses can have up to five generations of workers, all within the same department. This puts IT professionals with drastically different working styles, backgrounds and values together on the same team — often perplexing managers whose goal is total alignment. The biggest group of them all? Millennials, which are expected to make up nearly 80 percent of the nation's total workforce by 2025.
So, what's a manager to do? What's the best way to approach a diverse workgroup and maintain focus on overall company goals?
"Offhand, I wouldn't approach it any different. In fact, I view a multigenerational workforce as a major benefit to the greater team and the company overall," said Marc Furlong, vice president of IT for a tech company in Los Angeles.
"Multigenerational teams present diverse perspectives on how to solve problems and innovate. It fosters a more creative environment," he said.
While Furlong takes an optimistic approach, he notes that there can be some noticeable differences on multigenerational teams. Paying attention to the following factors can help ensure the team operates smoothly and continues working towards the same goals.
Be aware (and accommodating) of various work preferences
A Baby Boomer may be rooted in the idea of working solid 8 to 5 day, taking a set lunch and always coming into a brick-and-mortar office to work onsite. On the other hand, a Millennial worker may prefer to come in later, or leave at a later hour to help avoid traffic. They may even work a day or two from home.
Assuming both options are okay with company rules and culture, Furlong believes it's a good idea to support both approaches. "It's about the work product and the results — not the specific hours."
Additionally, he pointed out that everyone works best in unique environments and at different times of the day. Supporting those preferences is part of what leads to great work cultures and happy employees.
Squeeze in face time to foster relationships
Make sure you make it a priority to get the entire team facing each other, via one-on-ones, group projects and entire team meetings. But, that doesn't mean everyone must be in the same physical location for it to count.
Video conferences are an affordable, easy substitute for flying in remote workers. Remember, the goal is relationship-building and enhancing productivity. Video conferencing and messaging platforms can accomplish both.
Create standard work tools
Managers may notice that different people on the team prefer to work with different apps and software, for example. First, it may not be a generational difference; people have varied work preferences, like with anything else. Second, it's okay to embrace a core set of tools that everyone must use to get the job done.
Technology is constantly changing and tools evolve. It's part of the job to stay on top of new tools and be open to new approaches. "But there are plenty of situations where a standard set of tools will make sense; perhaps due to cost, time or preference."
What about friction?
"It's not about age. It's not about hierarchy. It's not about who is the boss," Furlong said. "You will have people older than you and younger than you at any given point. It's about the job, and helping people understand what is the most important thing they should be working on."
Finally, managers who maintain an open-door policy go a long way in creating a sense of goodwill among employees.
"Access and friendly, candid communication is always the first step."