Millennial managers are now pretty common. And Gen Z are rising high at work. With all that going on, it’s important not to overlook your older staff members. A young manager might intuitively understand the needs and opinions of someone in their own age range. But supporting someone at a later stage in their lives doesn’t come quite so naturally. So you should use a regular staff check-in to overcome challenges managing older employees.

So much work culture content focuses on the rising star of young talent. It can make employees with a few more candles on their birthday cake feel quite forgotten. And, for those older staff members who aren’t where they want to be in their careers, it’s even worse. So, let’s face the challenges managing older employees, and break down how a check-in can make a difference.

What do we mean by “employee check-in?”

An employee check-in is a personalized micro-survey and goal-tracking update all in one. It’s completely asynchronous to avoid the complications of scheduling. Even better, it only takes minutes to complete or review an update. So it’ll fit neatly into even the busiest routines.

And we mean it when we say they’re personalized. Managers assign a set of maybe half a dozen questions to each employee. They’re free to chop and change these questions each week to keep up with the latest workplace culture developments.

As for the goal-tracking side, managers get their choice of SMART Goals or OKRs. Each one has their uses. SMART Goals help to break big projects down into manageable chunks. But OKRs connect everyone’s work to a particular set of organisational objectives. This helps employees to see their impact and enables collaboration across a large business.

A regular employee check-in provides what’s known as sentiment data. Of course, you’re free to analyse it yourself. But we also provide an algorithm for bespoke sentiment reports designed to pick up on easily overlooked trends. With these check-ins and the resulting reports, you don’t have to guess how your people feel. That’s why they’re such a useful tool for handling challenges managing older employees.

What employee check-ins aren’t

As usual, it’s time for an important reminder. The definition of an employee check-in described above is what we mean whenever we use the term. The problem is that people use the term “check-in” quite informally.

So, while socially “checking in” on someone might mean setting up a 1:1, or having an informal chat, that’s not what we mean. An actual employee check-in isn’t a direct conversation. It’s designed to supplement and support the existing 1:1s you already have, like performance review meetings.

The common challenges managing older employees

When we say a person has seniority, it can mean one of two things. Either they’re highly ranked in a group or organisation, or they’re an older individual. And we generally expect these two things to coincide. When you imagine meeting a new boss, the image you bring to mind is probably of someone older than you. A similar age to you, at the very least.

This makes a certain amount of sense. More time in a given career field equals more experience and opportunities to network. And, in society, we often associate age with knowledge and wisdom.

But it’s getting more common for people to have managers who are younger than them. A poll from found that this was the case for nearly 4 in 10 employees. 60% of Millennials and almost half of Gen Z report being people managers. And, on top of all that, 65 and over is the fastest-growing age demographic in the workplace.

Younger managers can lack experience

Regardless of challenges managing older employees, it’s not easy being a new manager. It’s often assumed that, since you excelled at the job, you must intuitively know how to coordinate people in that same role. It’s understandable logic. But there’s more to being a manager than giving someone your old position and saying “Go!”

There are often demands that only become apparent when you see the bigger picture. On top of that, people skills and emotional intelligence become so much more important in any leadership role.

A lack of experience alone would be one thing. But it’s often a lack of training too. And, without that, new managers must cobble together their own approach. These approaches are often based on (or in opposition to) ways they were managed in the past. So, while they can end up hitting some of the right notes, it’s easy for bad habits to creep in.

Having authority over older employees isn’t always easy

For a well-ingratiated manager, having older, potentially knowledgeable employees on-hand can be a boon. A reliable second opinion, and another level head in a bustling work culture.

But, for young or inexperienced managers, telling older staff what to do is easier said than done. And overcoming the initial weirdness of managing someone older than you is only the beginning. An older employee may have been in their role (or similar roles) for a while. As a result, they might not take kindly to someone they perceive as less experienced telling them how to do their job.

And, while that’s understandable, a manager whose team won’t listen to them can’t produce results. In turn, that feeds into the employee perception that their manger isn’t worth listening to.

One of the biggest challenges managing older employees is when they actively resent their younger boss. Not everyone goes all the way up the leadership track. Sometimes, people are resentful because they thought they’d be on the other side of the desk by now.

The stereotypes between generations

Generational stereotyping is a huge barrier to communication at work. You know what we mean. “Gen Z are glued to their screens, Millennials are lazy, Gen X is out-of-touch,” and so on. Of course, these things cut both ways. On the one hand, they’re a huge contributing factor to the resentment and lack of authority young managers experience.

And, on the other, personal biases present their own challenges managing older employees. For example, they might assume older staff aren’t tech-savvy. This can impact the kinds of responsibilities they assign people.

Or they might offer benefits and support based on what they think someone of “that age” would want. As always, the solution is communication. Rather than making ill-informed assumptions about what people want, just talk to them.

How a regular check-in supports staff with seniority

There’s no overnight solution to building trust and rapport. But a regular employee check-in helps managers to put their best foot forward. For younger managers, it’s a useful tool to help win over their older team members.

Action based on frequent communication builds rapport

Actionable insight makes it so much easier to handle challenges managing older employees. Results speak for themselves. The best way to win people over is by consistently supporting their needs.

Our check-in accomplishes this by providing a channel for employees to speak their minds. The better job a manager does handling employee concerns, the more comfortable they’ll be raising issues in the future.

In this way, a check-in helps young, potentially inexperienced managers get a feel for supporting their team.

Book 1:1s based on employee feedback

Like we’ve said before, you shouldn’t confuse an employee check-in with a 1:1 meeting. Nor should you phase one out in favor of the other.

An employee check-in should support and enhance the 1:1s your managers do have. This is partially because a check-in is its own form of documentation. Check-in histories are a lifesaver when getting caught up for a manager/employee meeting.

However, check-in data is also a vital indicator of when 1:1s are even necessary in the first place. Sure, you’ll likely have your scheduled performance appraisal meeting(s) at some point in the year. But there are plenty of other reasons for impromptu 1:1s. Like wellbeing concerns, or candidacy for promotion. There’s no substitute for a private, face-to-face conversation. And, in a hectic work environment, check-ins can help managers spot when they’re necessary.

Check-ins help new managers to be present

For young leaders, establishing authority can be one of the biggest challenges managing older employees. Especially when they’re new to the role. And it’s not entirely about just getting on with the job, either. In a situation where managers are being judged or resented by their team members, visibility matters.

Checking in, and then responding to check-in answers, reinforces a manager’s presence to their team. Especially if they can nail down a quick response time. It shows skeptical employees that their boss isn’t ignoring or hiding from workplace issues. Even more so if they can deliver actionable insight, like we mentioned above.

Checking in breaks bad habits and promotes good ones

And, finally, words may have power. But a new job title doesn’t magically confer the skills necessary for effective people management. The best way to win people over and overcome challenges managing older employees is by forming good habits.

Fortunately, check-ins are the perfect tool for setting good managerial habits. Not to mention curbing bad ones. For starters, it sets a good precedent by giving each team member equal access to managerial support.

The questions managers ask keep them aware of employee wellbeing and potential disengagement. Recognition questions mean hard work doesn’t get overlooked. And regular goal updates curb the urge to micromanage that can plague anxious new managers.

It’s all about using each part of the check-in to full effect. Managers establish patterns of excellence that make it much easier to win people over. That’s why our employee check-in is so useful for challenges managing older employees.