Why Labeling Your Employees Is Hurting Your Business (And What To Do Instead)

Oct 31, 2019

There are currently 4 generations in the workforce (sometimes 5)! This can lead to a bit of a language barrier and in many cases - generalizations. What if we’ve been looking at it all wrong? What if we are alienating our dedicated team members by labeling them and putting them in a box they don’t belong?

According to a survey conducted by Randstad Workmonitor Q2 2018, 90% of U.S. respondents stated they actually prefer to work in a multi-generational team.

So where is the disconnect when it comes to assumptions? When each generation was in their late teens to early 20’s and entering the workforce, they all had different goals, values… and faults.

Every single generation has been, at one point, underestimated and described
as "boat-rockers."

That is a beautiful thing! Young people come in and change the mold, ask why, and bring innovation with them. A fresh perspective can change the world.

We all enter the workforce with little to no training in the ways of the business world. Can we cut our younger generations some slack and hold ourselves accountable for guiding them and then getting out of their way? Appreciate the opportunity to rock that “we’ve always done it this way” boat. Some of these young entrepreneurs can start a company overnight from their parent’s house with no funding! Oh and not only are they 7 but they are a net zero and zero-waste social impact company that changes the world. Are you kidding me?? If it weren’t for child labor laws, they should be professors teaching us how it’s done!

Or leverage the vast knowledge of our retiring workforce and respect that they may be amazing mentors? And please show them compassion because the next step in their lives might be a little scary. How many of us define a part of our identities with our careers? Retirement SHOULD be time to spend with family and hobbies but so often that’s far from true. It can be fraught with concerns over income, benefits, insurance and health issues, and a new identity.

Every single person has something unique to offer but if we don’t know, we can’t utilize it.

With that being said, here are 3 steps you can start implementing today to improve communication with your employees:

1.      Meet them where they are.

Everyone is in different places in their lives and they have different learning and communication styles. You may have an introvert that would prefer communication over email or text so they have the opportunity to thoughtfully reply without feeling intimidated or pressured to give the correct answer in front of a group.

Maybe you have a manager that was a total rockstar until he lost a family member and now struggles with productivity because he needs time off to seek help.

Or a hungry new hire that is motivated to move up and succeed but without guidance and a career path, will end up looking to another employer in hopes of finding a mentor to achieve their goals.

Have a conversation with this one goal in mind. If you understand the whole person that shows up to work every day and their purpose, it is much easier to communicate, find coaching opportunities, or set attainable goals and become that amazing employer everyone wants to work for!

2.      Collaboration

Collaboration breeds innovation. In the same survey, 90% stated they believe that collaboration between generations is mutually beneficial for the company.

Seb O’Connell, an executive at Cielo, believes that generational differences can actually be great for growth. He says, “Younger workers’ enthusiasm for trying new things could be used to encourage a culture of innovation, while older workers can leverage their experience and broad perspective to help millennials understand some of the costs and risks associated with their ideas.”

38% said they find it difficult to communicate with coworkers from a different age group.

Do you have employees that don’t understand each other perhaps due to different communication styles? Even a basic understanding of if you are an analytical communicator (think: “give me facts!”) or more of an emotional communicator (think: “let’s talk face-to-face, I need to connect”) can improve how you communicate with your team or how they communicate with each other. It can open their eyes and break down the barrier! Here is a resource as a great starting point:


3.      Appreciation

I dare you to tell me any of your employees would quit on the spot if you offered more work/life balance, days off to chase a passion or volunteer opportunity, or a free lunch to get to know who they are and their potential within your business – human beings like to feel seen. Do a quick Google search for Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for a deeper understanding.

Figure out what is important to them and assess if there is a way you can show your appreciation by supporting their values.

Without a reward and recognition program in place, employers are more likely to experience turnover- period. No matter how simple, inexpensive or just the cost of your time, there are endless solutions for small and micro-businesses.

Say it with me, once more with feeling: Human beings like to feel seen!

Labels do more harm than good and prevent employers from truly understanding the individuals that work for them.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to a multi-generational workforce. If you take the time to truly understand your employees, you will undoubtedly increase your productivity, retention, and ultimately your profitability.

So tell me, who are you going to get to know today? 

Disclaimer: HR Branches provides general information about Human Resources. Please note that the information provided, while reliable, is not legal advice. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make sure your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location and circumstances. The purpose of this information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance on general HR matters.

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