Written by Heidi Wadsworth | 31st August 2023

It’s now very common to see a range of generations – Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z – in the same workforce, and each may respond differently to management styles.

Acknowledging the existence of these generational differences is an important starting point, but it’s important to remember your workforce is made up of individual employees first.

Managers should focus on individual’s needs and adapt their management style accordingly. Here are some tips from the Reality HR team for managing a multigenerational workforce.


Trust, respect and communication

It is important to understand, accept, and respect different generations and understand that their values may differ from your own, or from others in the team. However, be sure not to stereotype – remember that within a generation, each person is an individual, and not everyone of the same age has the same opinions, experiences or communication style.

Achieve trust and respect by having one-to-one conversations with your people. This will enable you to understand how best to communicate and bring out the best in each individual.

Be open to feedback

Listening is one of the most important skills a manager can possess – remember that communication is always a two-way street.

Asking your people how they feel they are being managed and supported can be revealing – and you may discover that what tends to work well for one generation is not right for another. Be sure to ask about employee satisfaction and differing attitudes to career goals and progression.

You can do this informally by being open to feedback day-to-day, or through regular check-ins with your people. Or, from time to time, you can carry out more structured exercises such as pulse surveys, performance appraisals, and 360-degree feedback.

Rewards, benefits and recognition

Different benefits matter more or less to various generations, often depending on their stage of life. For example, your policies on fertility benefits and parental leave will be important to those aged 20 to 40, but over-50s may be more interested in sabbaticals, the opportunity to travel and part-time working.

If you have a bonus programme, make sure it rewards productivity and encourages retention across the generations. It’s important for older employees to know that they are valued as much as the younger generation, and vice versa.

Outside formal schemes, be sure to give positive feedback in your day-to-day work. Remember that people may prefer this in different ways – for example some would prefer not to be singled out in front of others, while others may enjoy the public recognition. Again, it’s all about being sensitive to cultural and generational differences.

Collaborative Working

Perhaps the biggest benefit of a multi-generational workforce is that every generation can learn from another. Younger employees can draw on the experience of longer-standing colleagues, helping to develop skills that will support career development. In turn, the older generations can learn much from younger team members – perhaps increasing their knowledge of emerging skills and culturally relevant topics.

If appropriate, a cross-generational mentorship programme, pairing people from different generations so that they can collaborate and share ideas, can reap huge rewards and foster a “one team” approach. This “reverse mentoring” approach can also be widened out to cover any difference, across race, gender, class, geography etc, to grow connection, learning and change.

Employee Coaching

Research shows that employee coaching is one of the best strategies for managing a multigenerational workforce, as coaching is an individual approach, tailored to the needs of each individual, regardless of their age or position.

Employee coaching can help each staff member develop their technical and inter-personal skills, guiding them in their career development and increasing their engagement with the company.

Not only does this create a good working environment, but it is in demand from employees. For example, research by HR Future claims that 71% of Gen Z said they value the opportunity to work with coaches and mentors.


Reality HR’s teams of CIPD-qualified HR specialists are experts in supporting employers to create diverse, inclusive and productive workplaces. See more about our team here.