Managing A Multigenerational Workforce: Leveraging Age Diversity for Departmental Success

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by Nicole Dhanraj, PhD, CRA, RT, R, CT, MR

Generations in the Workforce

In today’s workforce, it is becoming increasingly common to have four or five generations work alongside each other, driving age diversity in the workplace and contributing to a diverse and dynamic environment.

The reasons for this trend include longer life expectancies and declining birth rates. As a result, the multigenerational workforce is becoming a defining characteristic of the modern workplace, and imaging is no stranger to this phenomenon. However, this diversity can lead to challenges and conflicts in the workplace, contributing to high employee turnover and dissatisfaction if mismanaged.

To fully leverage the diversity and the potential of the multigenerational workforce for success, leaders must understand the unique perspectives, values, and needs of each generation and implement tactics that foster collaborative teamwork, inclusive and resilient environments where all employees can thrive and their authentic selves.

Misconceptions and Misunderstandings

Imaging leaders need to create a culture that values and utilizes the diversity of a multigenerational workforce. This will not only benefit individual employees but also helps organizations achieve their goals and remain competitive in an ever-changing imaging landscape.

As we forge into an increasingly diverse work, leaders must take action to effectively manage and support the multigenerational workforce. The misconceptions and misunderstandings between generations in the workplace are often rooted in stereotypes, unconscious bias, and a lack of knowledge about each generation.

In my experience, these myths and conflicts can arise from unstated expectations and assumptions that there is a one size fits all approach to work and communication. To effectively leverage age diversity, it is crucial to gain a deeper understanding of each generation’s strengths and unique perspectives.

Unique Multigenerational Perspectives

A few years ago, I prioritized learning more about the different generations in the workforce. Through this process, I discovered the unique perspectives and valuable skills that each generation brings to the table.

Traditionalists (born before 1946): These team members are often highly disciplined, loyal, and have a strong work ethic. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge and can provide valuable guidance and mentorship to younger team members. They enjoy telling stories to share their experiences and emphasize their values, upbringing, and life philosophies. They are usually considered the department’s backbone and revered by their colleagues for their adventures. Colleagues typically are in awe of their resilience and perseverance, especially as they remain at one organization for most of their careers. Depending on the personality, they often work quietly while making way for the younger ones to take over the reins. They value their seniority, title, and respect. They are constantly engaged and have a tangible commitment to ensure the department remains functional and supported.

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964): These team members are often hardworking, dedicated, and ambitious. They are loyal to their employer and tend to be very goal-oriented. They also have a lot of experience and can provide valuable insight and guidance to younger team members.

Generation X (born 1965-1980): These team members are often independent, self-reliant, and well-organized. They often work well under pressure and are skilled at problem-solving. They are also adaptable and able to work in a variety of different environments. They are workhpossess what others admire as a strong work ethic.

Paradigm Shift

Until a few years ago, the three main generations in the workplace were the traditionalists, boomers, and Gen X’ers. However, it has now expanded to include millennials and Generation Z, with the millennials making up the bulk of the workforce. This paradigm shift increases the complexity of leading a multigenerational workforce and emphasizes why we as leaders need to understand the nuances of each generation to be influential leaders.

Millennials (born 1981-1996):  These team members are often tech-savvy, well-educated, and possess diverse skills. They tend to be team-oriented and have a strong sense of social responsibility. They can also continually adapt quickly to new technologies and changing circumstances. They want to move up the career ladder faster but with a work-life balance.

Generation Z (born 1997-2012): These team members are often highly tech-savvy, innovative, and creative. They are used to working in a fast-paced and ever-changing environment and can multitask effectively. They gobble up information quickly and prefer to use automation and other digital tools to improve their workflow.

Generational Myths

The myths and conflicts between generations, in my experience, are related to stereotypes, a lack of understanding about each generation, and the unconscious bias that there is one right philosophy of work and communication. There are often unstated expectations and many assumptions that fill the gaps in touch leading to misconceptions and wrong interpretations of behaviors and information.

To truly leverage the potential of the multigenerational workforce, it is essential to dispel the myths and conflicts that arise from stereotypes, assumptions, and an overall lack of understanding. Here is a reflection of my discoveries thus far.

  1. The older generation has a wealth of experience and knowledge, while the younger generations often have a strong sense of innovation and adaptability. By recognizing and utilizing the strengths of each, imaging leaders can create a more harmonious and productive work environment.
  2. The common misconception is that older workers, particularly those over 55, count down the days until retirement. However, this is far from the truth. The aging workforce tends to take a vested interest in the success of their department, actively engaged in making suggestions for improvement and supporting departmental initiatives. They often take the lead on these initiatives, leveraging their experience and dedication to ensure their success.
  3. Imaging leaders can rely on the stability of older workers. This generation tends to have a lower turnover rate than their younger counterparts, which may be more inclined to seek variety and move up the corporate ladder. This stability can be leveraged by imaging leaders, allowing for more consistent performance and continuity in the workforce.
  4. Younger workers are often perceived as more productive. However, productivity should not be confused with speed. Younger workers may be faster, but older workers are often more effective due to their experience, as older workers can anticipate risks and avoid mistakes.
  5. Older workers are considered to be tech illiterate. However, older workers can learn and adapt to new technologies as needed. They may not be as familiar and tech-savvy as their younger counterparts, but it does not mean they are uncomfortable using technology.

Tactics to lead high-performing multigenerational teams

Here are a few tactics that a director can use to lead high-performing multigenerational teams:

Communicate effectively: Make sure to communicate with team members in a way that is appropriate for their age and communication preferences. For example, older team members may prefer face-to-face communication, while younger team members may prefer digital communication. Older generations prefer formal titles and a hierarchy level, whereas younger generations prefer equality. The level of formalness, though, will also depend on organizational culture. The older generation is in tune with a 360 view of communication, including verbal and non-verbal cues. They are very attentive to body language, which frequently goes against what they are familiar with regarding proper or professional communication. The younger generation, especially amongst themselves, seem pretty oblivious to body language and do not get offended by certain behaviors, like eye rolls, noodle posture, or tone, as with the older generation. The younger generation prefers quick and short information. Think about social media reels. They are fast and also can be screened through very quickly. Also, podcasts, YouTube, and other platforms allow information to be fast-forwarded, getting to the necessary parts. This behavior sometimes spills over into human-to-human communication, where the younger generation wants quick answers. In comparison, the older generation often would engage in storytelling or use the opportunity to educate the youngster with their question. This may add a level of frustration for both parties.

Leaders need to understand and respect each generation’s communication preferences and styles. This may involve adapting the format, tone, and level of formality of communication to suit the audience. While I may feel odd saying “bruh,” “wassup,” and other informal languages specific to the younger generation, I have attempted to use some preferred communication styles and was surprised at how they loved it! I built community and relationships as I related my language to theirs, albeit respectfully.

Leverage diversity:  Use the different perspectives and experiences of team members from different generations to your advantage. Encourage team members to share their ideas and insights to create a more innovative and effective team. The younger generation wants to be respected so they can be knowledgeable despite their age. They have information at their fingertips and can google anything and digest it just as quickly. The younger generation is very independent, often sourcing information rather than asking someone. In teams, it is essential to encourage collaboration and autonomy.

Mentorship opportunities:  We often love to provide opportunities for older team members to mentor younger team members. While this can help to bridge the gap between generations and create a more cohesive team, it may also create distance as the younger generation may prefer to learn things in a new non, traditionalist style. The key is not just to pair them with an older “experienced” colleague but to provide them with a diverse group of mentors who each has valuable knowledge and expertise to offer.

Be flexible:  Be open to different working styles and preferences of team members from different generations. In providing these options, staff should accept that not everyone prefers the same work schedule or environment and be open to allowing these flexible options, especially as it will promote increased job satisfaction. A one size fits all approach to schedule, benefits, and compensation will not work in a multigenerational environment.

Respect. Show respect for team members from all generations, and create a culture of inclusion and respect. Encourage open communication and actively listen to feedback from team members. Each generation has its beliefs and philosophies about the work environment, organizational culture, work ethic, and appropriate communication. We all need to be conscious of our unconscious biases and how it influences our relationships negatively. Instead, we must build awareness in our teams, engage with curiosity, communicate expectations openly, and foster understanding amongst the group.

Inclusivity. One significant aspect of leading effective high-performing multigenerational teams is creating a culture of inclusivity and respect: Create a culture in which all team members feel valued and respected, regardless of their age or generation. Encourage open communication and actively listen to feedback from team members. Staff should feel comfortable calling out unconscious bias not to punish anyone but to encourage improvement and foster understanding.

Final Thought

A multigenerational workforce continues to expand in our departments. While there are differences between generations, the focus should be on the skillset that brings value to the team and the workplace rather than age groups. Therefore, leaders must facilitate training to help their teams accommodate generational differences so each team member can thrive and prosper. Understanding the perspectives, philosophies, and behaviors of all age groups will help leaders to facilitate tactics to ensure a high performing team that can effectively fulfill the department’s goals.

Nicole is member of the AHRA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and can be reached at

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