Leveraging Traditionalists on Your Team

Beth Miller |

In today’s workforce, you may have some Traditionalists within your multi-generational workforce. While the Traditionalist generation has passed retirement age, many still remain working; some do so for financial reasons, and others because they love to work. But in a rapidly changing modern workplace they may struggle to feel like a valuable part of the team—troubling, for a generation that won World War II.

This sense of fading relevance, from both Traditionalists and the people who work with them, can result in your team not getting the most benefit of this generation’s point of view and contributions.

This generation developed their work habits while on the assembly line or in a structured office, and they respect authority and those who show themselves to be in control. They also expect work hours to be clearly defined. However, as they are perhaps transitioning into retirement, they may need those hours to be reduced to suit their changing lives. Think about how you can integrate their efforts into your multi-generational workforce that will be a win-win situation.

In the office setting to which they are accustomed, face-to-face communications, phone calls, and personal notes were how business got done, and how they see effective communication made even in the age of internet and cell phones. Finding more time to talk to them personally and find out what their schedule needs are will show them that you value their presence as well as consider their needs.

They also feel rewarded by tangible symbols of loyalty, such as plaques or certificates, more so than younger generations who see more value in time off, or monetary compensation.  Explore ways of creating a multi-pronged reward system that the Traditionalists will value within your multi-generational workforce.

It is important to keep the lines of communication open and thank each member of the team for their contributions, as Traditionalists may “perceive that the younger generation lacks work ethic, and respect for authority and institutional practices,” says Melissa Proffitt Reese, of Ice Miller. Communicating clearly in this way educates Traditionalists (and other generations) that there are different ways to contribute, and a younger person’s questioning of authority can be their way of respecting leadership just as a Traditionalist not questioning direction is.

On the whole, Traditionalists are not likely to need a lot of guidance and feedback. Not just because they’re presumably in their present roles because they don’t need to learn them, but they are often comfortable with yearly annual reviews when it comes to making sure their work is up to par. This might be because of their confidence in authority—they were taught to do things correctly, so if they’re not being told otherwise, things must be fine—or because they have less time left in their careers, and don’t have decades to live with mistakes, as younger generations might. In any case, there is little need to closely manage their performance.

Does your multi-faceted multigenerational work environment suit the needs of the Traditionalists you have on the team?

Image Credit: The Stock Exchange (www.sxc.hu) User: wanderlust

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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