Managing teams comprised of a range of generations is a growing challenge for leaders and, if this challenge is not constructively and proactively addressed, it can have a substantial negative impact on affected employees and ultimately the organisation, a leadership expert says.

“As more and more people put off retirement until later, whether by choice or necessity, we now have multiple generations represented in the workforce, who need to be able to work in harmony despite wildly differing life experience and attitudes, behaviours and expectations,” says Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, leadership strategist and founder of Jack Hammer, Africa’s largest executive search firm which recently expanded its footprint to the USA.

She says that despite mandatory retirement age, people in general are working until they are much older, whether it be in permanent, formal or consulting/part-time capacities, which means that the staff complement in organisations is now much more likely to consist of people of all ages.

With the result that, more than ever before, leaders are required to lead multi-generational teams, which include so-called Pre-Boomers, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y (also referred to as Millennials) – a situation which predictably can give rise to conflict.

Goodman-Bhyat says that although any good leader in a South African organisation is expected to be sensitive and responsive to issues relating to gender and racial diversity, putting issues relating to multi-generational diversity on the back-burner can prove a costly mistake.

“The biggest challenge in managing multi-generational teams, is as a result of the differences in values, priorities, motivations and approaches to work of team members. How this manifests is in very simple things like work tenure – the younger generations are likely to change jobs every few years, in order to achieve the variety, breadth of scope, and opportunity to try new things that they value highly. Read more here.