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Integrating a multi-generational workforce

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Lizzie Tasker Work Life, Work, Employers...

Many employers recognise the benefit of having a richly diverse workforce, where they can strike a balance of utilising experience and maturity whilst also nurturing emerging talent. But with increasing talk of generational stereotypes; the advantages and the pitfalls of each group, some employers may be put off, fearing potential issues of mixing these, often very different groups, in a workplace setting. From baby-boomers to generation X, Y, Z-ers, in order to successfully manage and engage a multigenerational workforce, business leaders must recognise the importance of fostering a strong workplace culture which embraces diversity.  Through embracing differences, employers will be best placed to harness the potential benefits each generation can bring.  

One of the biggest differences reported between the older and the younger generational subsectors is what motivates them. It’s said that baby-boomers accept authority and hierarchy and are career-focused and hardworking, focused on the bottom-line, enjoying security and familiar routine caring less about trends and external perception/appearance, whereas Gen Y & Z are more likely to be materialistic and place work-life balance and the freedom to work creatively and autonomously towards a clear and meaningful purpose ahead of stability and routine.

Another of the biggest areas which dominates the conversation surrounding generational differences is technology. There’s no avoiding the fact that the younger generations have grown up in a digital age, meaning they’re more likely to have an expectation for cutting-edge technology in the workplace and a different approach to communication favouring email and messaging services. That’s not to say that older generations are technophobes, but businesses may face reluctance through periods of change and appropriate training methods should be considered.

Regardless of generation, something most employees value is the opportunity to provide feedback. Savvy employers should have methods in place for staff to provide comments and be prepared to listen and take action on topics such as reward and recognition, internal communication and learning and development opportunities.  

Businesses concerned about segregation issues and who want to create a more unified working environment could consider implementing a buddy system or mentoring scheme, collaboration between groups is important as they’ll be able to learn from the other.

For any employer, it’s important to see beyond these generational stereotypes and recognise that each individual employee comes into the workplace with their own unique set of expectations, skills and knowledge shaped by their life experiences and should not be defined by age, rather the contribution they bring. Effective line managers will recognise different needs and be able to adapt leadership style accordingly to allow staff to realise their full potential, which can only mean good things for engagement and productivity.