3 Tips For Optimizing Productivity, Improving Attitudes In Today’s Diverse Workforce

Every workplace needs to achieve certain standards of productivity to continue meeting goals, making profits, and winning new business. But what works to motivate some employees to reach higher levels of productivity may fall flat for others. The most productive companies are the ones that can tailor their messaging and strategies to meet the needs of each individual contributor and team. 

While every person is different, and two employees of identical demographics could have opposite work preferences, there are large-scale similarities among generations. While Baby Boomers often share an intrinsic loyalty to their employer and desire for recognition, Gen Z tends to value flexibility and meaningful work experience. Falling in the middle, Gen X and millennials have their own unique desires for their work life that motivate them to achieve higher productivity levels. But even with these differences in mind, studies show that age may not play as big a role in how we think about work as we may have thought. A new study reports that attitudes towards work and careers are similar across generations. Using data from nearly 600,000 individuals, researchers report that stage of life is actually far more significant than birth year.

A 2019 study reports that a manager can have a significant impact on the productivity of the team as a whole, but not in the way you may think. The report by researchers at Binghamton University finds that simply being nice to employees and taking an interest in them personally and professionally almost always leads to better productivity and improved job performance overall. Regardless of generation, personalized management leads to improved outcomes when looking at the bottom line. Understanding and seeing people for the individuals they are is the trick a manager needs to achieve their loftiest business goals.

Understanding the workforce for what it is, has been, and is on its way to becoming is crucial to developing strategies for optimal productivity. As a seasoned professional and business leadership expert, Dr. Scott Delong is uniquely qualified to speak on strategies that yield results for people of all ages and backgrounds. With a keen understanding of both challenges and opportunities presented by the diverse workforce of 2024, DeLong has abundant valuable advice for today’s business leaders.

Coworkers gather in conference room for office meeting
The modern office is filled with employees spanning multiple generations. When everyone can work together despite the age differences, productivity can soar. (Photo 232936371 | Meeting © Fizkes | Dreamstime.com)

1. Prioritize Communication

According to DeLong, “the most important meeting that I have on my calendar is the one-on-one with my direct reports. I might move an appointment with a customer, I might move an appointment with a lawyer, I might move it with a banker. I’m not moving an appointment with one of my one-on-ones.” What are these all-important meetings about? They focus on one thing: communication.

Where are your struggles? How can I help?” inquires DeLong. “Whatever your needs are, it’s my job to provide that for you because ultimately you’ve got to get the work done for me. If I clear the path, you’re going to want to do a good job.”

In establishing a solid line of communication focused on collaboration and understanding, leaders lay the foundation for good and meaningful work to be done effectively. An essential aspect of leading is to help in problem-solving when a worker hits a road block. Whether the employee is a tech-savvy Gen Zer ready to hop on a Zoom call or a seasoned Baby Boomer who’d rather meet face-to-face, regular correspondence between a leader and their direct reports builds strategizing and collaborating into the team’s culture.

Another essential benefit of this regular communication is its effect on the workers. “They feel cared for,” notes DeLong. “They’re producing something in the world, and they’re doing something bigger than them — and they’re doing it with other people. They’re doing it with community.”

In transforming work into community, exceptional leaders transform obligation into purpose. This benefit extends to the entire company. “Treat people with dignity and respect, find out what they need, and help them on their path.” DeLong states. “The company will do better when I do that.”

2. Embrace Flexibility

With each passing year, flexibility becomes more and more important to employees. So much so, in fact, that a recent study reports that 2 in 5 workers say they’d trade their health and vacation benefits for more flexibility. In a post-pandemic world, remote work options are more popular and more prevalent than ever. Employers who are too strict with their policies may find themselves losing great employees to competitors who can offer more flexible hybrid and remote schedules. However, remote work is far from the only piece of the giant puzzle, which is workplace flexibility. Encompassing meeting frequency, errand scheduling, hybrid structuring, and more, creating a truly flexible workplace is about far more than it may seem on the surface.

At the center of all issues surrounding flexibility is communication. A great team can communicate effectively in person and online, starting with a great leader at the helm. “Learn how to communicate a little bit differently,” advises DeLong. “I hold [one-on-one meetings] as frequently as they need it. For some people, it’s once a week. For some people, it’s every other week. We’ve got a few that are once a month. I want to find out what your needs are and spend time asking you questions about how it’s going.”

Combatting generational barriers to productivity requires flexibility and understanding that what works for some will not work for all. While regular check-ins disrupt workflow for one team member, they are essential to the process for another. While some employees are available for a 4:30 pm meeting, others may have to step out to pick up their children from the bus. Rather than fighting, embracing diverse work styles, schedules, and processes may be the key to unlocking the productivity most managers scarcely dream of.

3. Encourage Inspiration

When asked if there are any strategies that work well for all generations, DeLong immediately turns to inspiration. “We need to create inspiration and be inspirational leaders,” he says. And the only way to find out how to inspire people is to find out what inspires them.”

Knowing how to inspire an employee requires getting to know them and understand their needs, interests, and goals on a deeper level. As DeLong notes, it also requires jumping in to teach and guide along the way. “There’s give and take in this communication; it’s not all just me. I also have responsibilities on my end to teach them the things that I know work and then listen to them [share] the things that might work better,” he adds. “Somewhere, we’re going to combine those ideas, and it’s not a compromise. Create the synergy between the ideas to develop a better solution than either of us would have come up with on our own. That’s how to inspire people — let them be part of the process.”

Productivity is an immediate goal for a business. However, in the long term, high-performing, inspired employees become future leaders who carry on the work already done. As DeLong puts it, “I think the job of the leader is to create future leaders.”

In his most recent book, I Thought I Was A Leader…A Journey To Building Trust, Leading Teams & Inspiring Change,” DeLong explores what it looks like to inspire a generationally diverse workforce with empathy, humility, and vulnerability. Whether you’re an aspiring manager or a seasoned executive, this book offers hard-won wisdom on building trust, leading people, and inspiring positive change in any workplace.

book cover with navy and orange circle and white background
“I Thought I Was A Leader…A Journey to Building Trust, Leading Teams & Inspiring Change” by Scott DeLong, Ph.D.

What have you found to be the best ways to foster productivity in the current work climate? How can leaders effectively manage teams in a rapidly changing professional landscape? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below! 

You might also be interested in:

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands or people mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.