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January 2014
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TD Magazine

Managing Through the Ages

Is your age a reflection on your ability to manage effectively? Most people seem to think so. A recent survey by Ernst & Young asked 1,200 cross-generational professionals about their perceptions of the managing abilities of each generation. Gen X managers were perceived favorably on nearly every aspect in the survey.

When respondents were asked if they found Generation X to be equipped to lead in the current business environment, 80 percent said yes; 76 percent agreed that Baby Boomers are equipped to manage effectively in the current climate. Millennials came in last, with only 27 percent of respondents saying that they are able to effectively lead today. However, respondents showed more support for Millennials as leaders in the near future: 51 percent said they would be effective managers by 2020.

Unsurprisingly, Millennials were rated the best at being tech-savvy and knowing how to use social media to generate business. Gen X achieved top scores for productivity, teamwork, problem solving, generating revenue, and building relationships; and they are the least likely to be considered difficult to work with.

Meanwhile, Baby Boomers scored respectably for their managing abilities (especially on having an "executive presence"), but their impending retirement causes them to lose points on more futuristic business skills such as brand development, adaptability, and collaboration.

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Management is quickly evolving as young professionals rise in the ranks. Eighty-seven percent of Millennial managers only moved into their roles in the past five years, compared with 38 percent of Gen X and 19 percent of Boomer managers.

With such a diverse group of workers, organizations are figuring out ways to keep employees of all ages happy and productive. In fact, 69 percent of respondents indicated that their organizations have made some effort to address the challenges of managing different generations in the workplace.

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Respondents said that the two biggest challenges are overcoming the tension of having younger managers oversee older employees, and meeting the expectations of each age group. These expectations concern everything from benefits to professional development opportunities, to workplace flexibility.

As Gen Y and Gen X managers begin to replace Boomers in the workplace, it will be interesting to see which values die out, and which gather steam in the next several years.

About the Author
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.
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