Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce

In the private clubs of today, it is possible to see as many as five generations of individuals in one membership. For managers and club leaders, this makes delivering a cross-generational member experience not only important, but necessary. On the flip side, many club managers may also be overseeing employees aging anywhere from 17 to 70. That’s a lot of generations in the mix—and a lot to juggle! So how can club leaders offer a consistent and exceptional experience with so many different variables involved?

We spoke with Dr. Joseph Michelli, Chief Experience Officer at The Michelli Experience, who speaks frequently on the topic advises that while this “multi-generational workforce” presents its own unique set of challenges, it also provides great opportunity for things like reciprocal mentoring, collaboration and team building. An international speaker and New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with companies all over the world—including private clubs—to help them deliver relevant and engaging service experiences.

“There have always been multi-generational workforces,” Dr. Michelli remarks, “but it has become more complex now that individuals are staying in the workforce longer.” He notes that the ebb and flow that we see in the market also extends to the workforce, but employers should not see this as a daunting feat that needs to be overcome. “It really gets down to practical managing,” he says. “The key is to determine how best to build collaboration among them.”

Working Together

One key concept Michelli discusses with his teams is reverse mentoring or reciprocal mentoring. Traditionally, many hear the term ‘mentor’ and think of the older generation showing the younger generations the ropes. In reality, mentoring goes both ways. “This really is a fascinating time for our history,” he remarks. “We have to consider what everyone brings to the table and how we can teach each other.”

Michelli suggests identifying skillsets of various employees and seeing how best to leverage them. For example, younger generations are digital natives that can teach older generations a lot about tech. Consider hosting a series of “brown bag lunches” where different staff members can help teach their colleagues something new. This will help develop your team’s technical skills while building relationships and leadership skills simultaneously.

Understanding Core Values

Simply stated: different generations have different values. What is important to someone born in the ‘50s is not necessarily going to be the same as someone who was born in the ‘90s. Michelli notes, “It is important to study generational differences and understand their visions and values so we can build a workplace that aims to accommodate those things.” He goes on to explain, “Older generations did what they were told and didn’t ask questions. It was a simple top-down authority. Younger generations really need to have an understanding and a sense of purpose in order to be driven to do things.”

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Michelli also advises that generational differences are hypotheses and we must not be too quick to put people into ‘boxes’ based on the year they were born. “If you start to overplay these segments without taking things like personalities, life experiences, family backgrounds and political factors into consideration, you will create unnecessary problems. You simply have to sit down with someone and learn what they are all about.”

Building Cohesive Teams

The main goal of most private clubs is to provide an exceptional member experience. The trick is developing that experience and delivering it consistently—from the valet to the Chef to the General Manager and everyone in between. But what does ‘exceptional member experience’ mean to your club, exactly?

“Clubs must decide what they want to be,” says Michelli. “You have to say, ‘this is what we want to be known for, this is why it is important, and this is why we are a differentiator.’ And then you have to provide that experience.” Once a club decides on their true purpose, they can begin to focus their staff training around these core values so that everyone understands what goals they are working toward, what type of experience they are expected to provide, and what it takes to do so.

Embracing Change

Today, workspaces are much more collaborative—and clubs should be no exception. “Older generations are used to making decisions with limited data, which often leads to pulling the trigger too soon,” Michelli explains. On the other hand, younger generations are used to having so much data at their fingertips that it can sometimes hinder them from making a decision quickly. “You have to find the balance between shooting and aiming without dwelling on either side.”

To do this, you need collaboration. Multi-generational employees can provide firsthand insight into what their generation of members want. Utilize the strengths of each generation of your workforce to brainstorm how best to provide members with what they want out of their club experience. This may mean reinventing past processes instead of doing things the way they’ve always been done or embracing technology to make data-driven decisions.

Michelli’s advice: Fail fast and fail forward. “Sometimes you just need to step back and make behavioral observations. Tweak one thing quickly and see how members respond. If it doesn’t resonate, try something else and keep exploring until you find what works.” This way, you can witness quick, incremental changes and adjust your methods accordingly—with your team’s input, of course!

Impacting the Experience

Each and every staff member at a private club plays a role in forming the particular culture and brand of their club—and it all trickles down to member experience. So rather than be intimidated by the challenges of managing a multi-generational staff, why not use the diverse generational to your club’s advantage?

Encourage your staff to collaborate with one another regardless of their department, learn from one another despite their age, and challenge each other to overcome the status quo. Ultimately, this will help create a more positive work environment which will lead to a truly enhanced club experience. This means serving the members better and giving them more reasons to spend time at a place they already hold so near and dear. Could we really ask for anything more than that?


What methods have you used to leverage the talents of your multi-generational staff?

Click here to read more about Dr. Joseph Michelli and The Michelli Experience.

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