Managing multiple generations as a millennial leader

Syed Uddin, The Adecco Group’s UK&I ‘CEO for One Month’ for 2018 offers his perspective on managing a multi-generational workforce.

Being new to the workforce is one thing – you have your whole career to look forward to, and lots of people who can offer advice on how to progress. But, being inexperienced and ‘CEO for One Month’, learning how to not only manage careers across the generational divide and manage a huge workforce, all while trying to juggle budgets, is something else altogether! 

Are different generations really that different?

When you are given the opportunity to shadow senior business leaders, you learn a lot about a company. A wealth of different ages, careers and lives all intermix, and help to contribute to its continued success. Managing five different generations can make it challenging for leaders to get the best out of their people, ensuring the firm thrives.

It quickly became clear to me that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to management is not the best way to go about things. For example, I came across research by Office Angels which found that Welsh (59%) millennials are more fearful about Brexit reducing the number of jobs available than their counterparts in the North East (31%).

Having said that, there are also similarities between the generations: even in today’s always-on world, a Badenoch & Clark report shows that everyone prefers face-to-face communication. So, managers need to focus on understanding individual employees and learning how to motivate and inspire them.

Reverse mentoring helps employees on every level and career path to learn and grow but it’s also invaluable to businesses, too.

Being able to understand these subtle differences and consistencies comes from being in the business – on the same level with everyone and working closely with them to learn more about them. 

Brexit – will millennials stay or will they go?

Every person has different needs from the workplace, regardless of where they are in their careers, and certain topics might invariably have a bigger effect on some employees than others. As millennials have a long time ahead of them in the workforce, it’s no surprise that Brexit has left them feeling especially up in the air.

In fact, research found that nearly half of millennials think that it will reduce the number of jobs available to them. Brexit has the potential to be a negative or positive influence on people’s careers. I for one am very interested to see how Brexit shapes my future career.

Two-way mentoring

Reverse mentoring helps employees on every level and career path to learn and grow but it’s also invaluable to businesses, too. It builds trust, collaboration and respect amongst generations: just because you are not the most senior person, it doesn’t mean you can’t contribute.

This was most evident in my time at the CMO council where I was actively engaged by the global marketing c-suite during workshops and discussions – something I will never forget.

I was asked advice on the importance millennials put on wellbeing in the workplace when drafting an article. And also what I think is important to the younger generation when it comes to their jobs. My opinion was genuinely valued and my mentor was able to learn from me as I was learning from her.

One-click management

Technology is all around us, and conversations about it are never far away: from chats about your favourite celebrity’s latest Instagram story, a new filter on Snapchat that your colleague mentions, to a tweet that highlights something happening in the industry, these are just some of the examples of how tech is penetrating business.

In many ways, this is great; it has opened up new ways of working, for example offering people a simple solution for working remotely and collaborating with an international team on an online project.  

But technology also has a downside: some workers, especially millennials who are often hailed as being more tech-savvy and early adopters of new tech, are worried about the job losses that tech like AI and chatbots will bring.

I learnt that those businesses that communicate the changes ahead, and make employees feel comfortable with discussing their worries, will find it easier to not just manage these concerns but attract and retain talent.

When all is said and done, a business is built on its people. I learnt first-hand that each generation has different needs in terms of office space, working options, and perhaps even remuneration. But at the end of the day, everyone wants a job they enjoy, and that is something that transcends all generations.


About the author

Syed Uddin was Adecco Group’s UK and Ireland ‘CEO for One Month’ in 2018.


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