Tim Donahue is no stranger to the topic of multi-generational workforces. Not only will he be teaching a course on the subject for the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) University called Recruiting and Hiring for Success , but he also helped to write a book, Talent Readiness: Leading a Multi-Generational Workforce, on the subject. Recent PricewaterhouseCoopers research reveals that millennials will make up half of the work force by 2020. Donahue has a few tips for managing this multi-generational workplace: 

1. Look past the stereotypes

Arguably, generational membership can influence how a person approaches their work. Traditionalists value authority and loyalty as they grew up in companies that in an earlier era provided them lifelong employment. Baby Boomers were often schooled in overcrowded classrooms and learned to fight for their place in the spotlight, which bred a competitive ethic. Many Gen Xers were the latchkey children of dual-career parents, and may value autonomy. Millennials on the other hand were parented by striving Boomers, “helicopter parents” who orchestrated so many aspects of their lives. Not surprisingly, research shows that Millennials want and expect more frequent feedback then older employees do. What’s common to all four generations are fundamental human needs like making a difference at work, feeling valued, learning and growing, and earning a sufficient income – however you define each of those needs. 

 2. Embrace cross-generational collaboration

Research shows that teams composed of people at different ages actually perform better, so reduce the urge to default to teams with everyone at the same age and career stage. Group project work also invites opportunities for informal coaching and mentoring relationships to develop. Coaching is a two-way street; a more junior colleague can learn how to successfully manage a project from a seasoned pro on staff, while a digital-savvy young hire can offer insights and best practices for the business on social media. The result is a win for everyone: a well-balanced, more collaborative workforce. 

3. Communicate through multiple channels

Generational preferences aside, the way people prefer to communicate is also heavily influenced by their preferred learning style. Focus on the common need of giving your employees the information they need to do their job successfully. Increase communication efficiency and reduce miscommunication by sending the same message via multiple methods: e-mail, in-person during face-to-face meetings and via a video  clip. Always provide opportunities for employees to ask questions and provide feedback through these different channels as well.