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Managers need to understand the generations

Published on Saturday, 28 Feb 2015

Most teams or departments in Hong Kong are likely to comprise of four different generations: traditionalists, baby boomers, and generations X and Y. The latter two make up around 45 per cent of the city’s workforce, therefore it is important to understand their strengths, weaknesses and what motivates them. 

Each has its own attributes, core values, attitudes to authority and communication preferences. Understanding the different characteristics, working styles and ambitions of the generations will lead to more effective management. 

Gen Xers are very independent, high-revenue generators, good at problem-solving, relationship-building and have an entrepreneurial spirit. Preferring to work alone rather than in teams, they enjoy freedom and reject authority and fixed work schedules. 

Individuals in this group also thrive on diversity, responsibility and creativity; they are eager to learn new skills and appreciate the opportunity for training. 

Gen Yers are motivated by a desire for autonomy, but they also need constant feedback from the boss. Driven more by accomplishments than money, they will work hard with detailed instructions and sufficient engagement.

As the most tech-savvy of the groups, they are constantly texting and instant messaging.

They view social media as very important and will use it whenever possible to promote business opportunities. Gen Y is the most well-educated of the generations, but is also viewed as the most difficult to manage. To express their creativity, they need a lot of flexibility, without rigid corporate structures. 

Organisations that understand these generational differences are better able to address the challenges of managing multi-generations. They will be more successful in attracting, retaining and engaging talent from the younger generations. 

To leverage working with multi-generations, there is a need to create mentoring opportunities across the organisation; encourage individual growth and development; value individual contributions in ways that are meaningful, and reward individual contributions and achievements.

Before too long, Gen Z will be among us.

Fiona Yung is executive director at Tricor Executive Resources

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