Are you leading a Multi-generational Hybrid Workforce?

See how today's leaders can be proactive in building a work environment where everybody has a voice
Dhruti Shah, Associate Director, C2C Organizational Development

Feb 17, 2023

Not one, not two, but the present-day workforce includes members of five different generations - Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. 

This broad spectrum of employees look set to work in primarily hybrid working models post-pandemic, according to a report by Mckinsey.  However, it’s challenging to pin down what hybrid working looks like in practice. Companies and leaders are designing their own models – the one that suits them and their unique business requirements.

Today's multi-generational hybrid workforce present both opportunities and challenges to business leaders. Leaders must balance the pursuit of business outcomes while ensuring employee engagement and satisfaction to lead a successful team.

Let’s examine this balancing act more closely. 


The potential problem 

People from different generations can find it difficult to view things from the other’s perspective. Age gaps may lead to differences in attitudes to work, communication methods, and technological literacy, which can cause workplace conflicts or misunderstandings. 

As team members and leaders, it can be natural to resort to damaging stereotypes and blame each other instead of working to resolve these differences. Throw hybrid working into the mix, and there is the potential for heightened tensions as remote work may extrapolate different work approaches.

The importance of effective leadership 

Effective leadership is critical to bridge generational gaps and harnessing the benefits of a generationally diverse workforce. Managers must foster collaboration by empowering employees to work in ways that suit them, appreciating unique preferences, habits, and behaviors.

Without this understanding and accommodation, productivity will suffer. 

So, what can leaders do to overcome challenges?

1. Don't buy into the stereotype. 

Psychology Today can give you a generalized insight into the characteristics of each generation. However, you should avoid these harmful labels. Discard this clumsy segmentation in favor of just understanding the potential variety of preferences across your workforce. 

Professor Megan Gerhardt, author of Gentelligence, suggests that generational baggage should be ignoredWhat’s more important to understand is that each individual’s previous experiences shape their views and approach to work life. As a leader, take the time to listen without making assumptions based on the generation a particular team member belongs to

2. Communicate openly and be transparent. 

Leaders working in multigenerational organizations should find ways to communicate across various platforms to boost employee productivity.  This necessitates clear and concise communication with your workforce to identify the strategies that work for everybody, especially in a hybrid working model. 

Depending on the makeup of your group, this could be group emails, one-on-one conversations, direct/text messaging, or a mixture of communication methods. The key is understanding what works for your employees without compromising your preferences as a leader. 

As a leader, by modeling open communication and transparency, you encourage employees to do the same, both with you and their colleagues.

3. Rely on culture as a foundation. 

The importance of a well-defined and omnipresent company culture is well-documented.

To work effectively, a multigenerational workforce requires a compass in the form of company’s values, mission, and workplace culture. These can provide the guiding principles around which a multigenerational hybrid workforce can derive focus and work has a cohesive unit. 

In specific reference to bridging gaps across a workforce, leaders who consistently model company values set a precedent for all employees to follow. This strong foundation creates a work environment of clear expectations as employees know exactly where they stand. Such clarity fosters trust and a psychological safety among employees, meaning they can withstand the challenges of generational diversity.

4. Remain agile. 

The pandemic forced leaders and employees to adapt to different circumstances, opening the door to remote work. Now that the pandemic is over, workers may have contrasting preferences on how to work depending on their circumstances. 

For leaders, it's essential to remain agile, carefully balancing employees’ preferences with the broader company objectives. This may mean offering flexible work hours, various remote work options, and paid time off, assessed on an individual basis.

In the modern business environment, things change quickly, and companies need to keep up with the change to remain relevant. Leaders who model agility can help guide their multigenerational workforce through transformative change in the workplace as well. 

5. Embrace diversity, but respect boundaries. 

New beliefs and value systems have entered the workplace due to a greater age diversity, and awareness. Topics like diversity and inclusion, mental health, and gender roles - once part of hush hush watercooler conversations, now regularly crop up in open forums.  

This is undoubtedly progression as companies reflect a long overdue need for social change. 

However, such discussions present risk for a leader. Respecting the various values and boundaries of each member of your team while preserving your own set of ground rules can be challenging. Your role as a leader is simple – provide ongoing opportunities to have these discussions, without forcing team members to subscribe to a particular point of view. You don’t want to have another checklist item…it has to be part of your company’s cultural ethos.

Bottom line

Collaboration, creativity, and innovation stem from great leadership and lead to positive business outcomes. However, leadership is about facilitating these things, not dictating them. To do so in a multigenerational hybrid workforce, leaders must be proactive in building a work environment where everybody has a voice, company culture underpins actions, and individual preferences are accommodated.

Dhruti Shah is an Organizational Development Consultant and a results-oriented coach who believes in the power of cultivating the right mindset. She has a proven ability to thrive in dynamically changing environments, making her insights invaluable to today’s entrepreneurs and leaders. Dhruti is the author of ‘The Resilient Entrepreneur: Strategies to set you up for success’ – check her book out here


What executives are saying about the future of hybrid work | McKinsey
From Baby Boomers to Generation Z | Psychology Today
How to Manage a Multi-Generational Team
Blurred Lines In A Multigenerational, Hybrid Workforce
Why Company Culture Matters: Our Favorite Reads
Leading agile transformation: The new capabilities leaders need to build 21st-century organizations