Today’s workforce comprises of Multiple generations. Each has varied work habits, expectations, and communication styles. Employers who implement strategies that optimize a multigenerational workforce can bolster their business goals.
Generations that make up the workforce
The Silent Generation
The silent generation includes those born between 1928-1945, which puts them in their mid-seventies to their early eighties. While most of them have retired from the workforce, many are still seen as partners, board members, or hold other advisory positions. This generation typically values tradition and hard work but often struggles to adapt to new technologies compared to younger generations.
Baby boomers were born between 1946-1964, which puts them in their mid-fifties to early-seventies. Though many baby boomers are approaching retirement age, we’re seeing that many choose to remain in the workforce. Like their predecessors, they value hard work but are more self-assured, goal-oriented, and disciplined.
Gen X-ers were born between 1965-1980, which puts them in their forties and fifties. This generation is often overlooked compared to the more standout characteristics of its neighboring generations. As a result, they are more direct, adaptable, and independent.
Millennials were born between 1980-1995, which puts them in their early twenties to mid-thirties. While they maintain many of the values of the previous generations, they are more tech-savvy and crave recognition, validation, and reassurance. This generation is hard working, but struggles with a sense of financial uncertainty and looks for a sense of achievement to perform their best.
Gen Z has quickly become one of the most talked-about generations to enter the workforce. Born between 1996-2015, they have just begun to join their predecessors in the workplace. Gen Z is known for being the most diverse, open-minded, and technologically savvy generation. Their biggest motivator is self-improvement and making a mission-driven impact.
Benefits of a multigenerational workforce
Including a range of ages in your staff adds value to the organization. Younger employees are accustomed to rapidly developing technology and adapting to the changes it drives. In like manner, more mature employees have knowledge from the duration of their experience that can guide decision-making. The collaboration of fresh innovation with wisdom from the experience brings increased productivity.
The following are some of the significant benefits of a multigenerational workforce:
Multiple perspectives – Different generations can have distinctive ways of viewing job responsibilities. Sharing perspectives within and across teams brings a broad range of knowledge and abilities to support innovation.
Problem-solving abilities – Combining multiple perspectives and diverse skills drives creative solutions to problems. Life experience influences how we relate to and interact with others to address challenges and conflict. As a result, teams with age diversity can offer a variety of ways to address problems.
Learning/mentoring opportunities – The more diverse a team is, the more ways people have to interact and learn from each other’s insights. This includes mutually beneficial mentoring opportunities. Those with more years of experience can advise younger employees on career development. What’s more, the recent trend of reverse/cross-generational mentoring allows more junior employees to educate mature workers with their familiarity with current trends and technology.
Knowledge transfer and retention – The awareness and strengths that each generation offers better prepare the business to meet its future leadership needs. Tacit knowledge stays within the company in a robust internal talent pipeline. Focus is more on in-house promotion and less on recruiting from the outside.
Multigenerational workforce challenges
Although a multigenerational workforce is advantageous overall, it does propose some major obstacles-
Communication issues – There are likely differences in preferred communication styles and interpretation of tone between the generations. With the availability of email, instant messaging, or phone and video calls, methods for reaching employees are plentiful. Selecting the best way to connect with team members and avoid communication breakdowns requires careful consideration.
Negative stereotypes – As with any type of diversity, people have preconceived notions about those in a different age group. Older generations may assume that younger people are entitled, oversensitive “snowflakes.” Youthful employees may presume that those that are older than them are inflexible and afraid to embrace technology. These sweeping generalizations form negative stereotypes that might lead to toxic company culture, disparate treatment, ageism, and legal problems.
Varying employee expectations – People from different generations may not hold the same expectations for their employment. Ways that people accomplish their duties, learn from trainings, or expect to have their performance evaluated can vary. Also, what is considered a desirable compensation package might not be the same for each generation.
Managing a multigenerational workforce
HR is instrumental in making sure the company bridges the generational gap and has efficient, cohesive teams. Here are eight management practices for leading a multigenerational workforce:
1. Work on Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
The key is offering a sought-after work environment and an assortment of perks to satisfy a variety of people. Policies and programs for wellness, work/life balance, and paid time-off are attractive to all generations. However, providing professional development, career advancement, community service opportunities, financial investment programs, and social events can target other desires to offer a wider appeal to different ages.
2. Fine-tune the inclusive hiring process
From sourcing to offer, companies should strive to eliminate age bias when recruiting. Start with educating hiring personnel, then expand the recruiting channels to use as many as possible. (College job fairs shouldn’t be the only place for filling entry-level positions.)
The wording of job ads may discourage age diversity. Check them for inclusivity.
Having a mix of younger and older hiring managers filter applicants and conduct interviews can also help level the field.
3. Cater to different communication styles
Harmony and productivity are dependent on effective communication. The aim is to ensure that the same information is accessible to everyone.
One should have consistency in company-wide communications and certain standards when it comes to the brand voice. Offer leaders their choice of text-based or video communication methods based on their teams’ needs. When it comes to one-on-ones, there should certainly be leeway for managers to address these individually.
4. Clarify and reiterate expectations
A common purpose unites people and minimizes their differences. Regardless of their age, employees want to be clear on the business goals and the specific role they are required to play in these endeavours.
Managers must establish avenues for spreading the word about expectations on an ongoing basis. They should also provide assurance about what employees can anticipate from the company as a whole and within their team.
5. Collect feedback
Not everyone is comfortable giving unsolicited opinions, so you need ways to encourage honest feedback that reveals the pulse of your multigenerational workforce. You should offer these opportunities through surveys, performance appraisals, and one-on-ones, or other creative methods.
6. Accommodate diverse working styles and needs
There is no one-size-fits-all way to address how workers of any generation can perform best. Organizations that are able to adjust to their employees’ needs are more apt to attract and retain the finest of the available talent pool.
Flexible work hours can accommodate employees of all seasons of life. Offering varied schedules or part-time work allows caregivers more time with family or provides a phased-in approach to retirement.
Previously, there might have been a generational factor in the preference for virtual employment, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that. A broad range of people have welcomed the freedom of remote work, and employers are embracing this reality. For example, Spotify is now offering its employees the ability to ‘work-from-anywhere’. Not every industry can accommodate this type of situation, but businesses that want to compete for top talent will need to oblige.
7. Create learning opportunities
People are generally eager to expand their skills and advance their careers, and it is not limited to just younger workers. Providing a wide array of knowledge-building opportunities benefits employees’ growth and enlarges their contribution to the business. An environment where asking questions is encouraged facilitates a learning atmosphere and allows everyone to be heard.
Upskilling and reskilling aren’t only accomplished through formal trainings. It can happen through knowledge sharing between generations through peer mentoring and learning, sponsorship, or assembling cross-functional teams.
8. Combat bias and stereotypes
Generational bias and stereotypes do exist. It’s far better to reframe them than pretend they aren’t there. Although it is a mistake to assume that people are “entitled,” “stubborn,” “idealistic,” or “a workaholic” just because of their age, the context of different life experiences does shape people in certain ways.
Acknowledging and contemplating differences allows the company to harness the strengths of each generation. It might be necessary to conduct training to confront age-based stereotypes, such as role-playing exercises. Bringing inaccurate perceptions to the forefront makes people more aware of their assumptions and can lead to more harmonized multigenerational teamwork.
Companies should work on deliberately dispelling bias and stereotypes at all employee lifecycle stages. In addition to the hiring process, they must watch out for the bias in their HR and people policies and among employees and leadership approaches.
Discovering how to manage a multigenerational workforce certainly has its challenges, but it is also rewarding for your organization. Leveraging the age-related differences provides a sound talent pipeline to support business sustainability.
The key is to communicate openly, honestly, and transparently to build an atmosphere where people feel included and respected. This provides a positive employee experience and enables individuals to fulfil their professional needs and potential.
Brought to you by
Humain-I, HR Club
Indian Institute of Management Indore
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