A core challenge over the next decade will be to attract and retain a skilled workforce as the labor market continues to tighten, technology continues to evolve, and fewer foreign students immigrate to Britain in the wake of a politically challenging environment.
This situation is exacerbated as companies find themselves managing four generations of workers:
The number of Millennial and Gen Z employees is expected to surpass Baby Boomers (individuals in their late 50s and older) by the end of 2019 and they will comprise nearly half of the total working population by 2020.
Today, you never know what generations will be represented in any room you step into—every meeting with clients, new customers or colleagues; every networking event; every recruiting or interview conversation—could include people up to six decades apart in age and work experience.
Each group has its own distinct characteristics, values, and attitudes toward work, based on its generation’s life experiences. To successfully integrate these diverse generations into the workplace, companies will need to embrace radical changes in recruitment, benefits, and creating a corporate culture that actively demonstrates respect and inclusion for its multigenerational work force.
Let’s take a look at each generation individually:
Baby Boomers. Boomers are the first generation to actively declare a higher priority for work over personal life. They generally distrust authority and large systems. Their values were shaped primarily by a rise in civil rights activism. They are more optimistic and open to change than the prior generation, but they are also responsible for the “Me Generation,” with its pursuit of personal gratification, which often shows up as a sense of entitlement in today’s workforce.
The term “baby boomers” emerged in the US to describe the group of the population born between the end of the second world war and the early 1960s, there has been less consensus in the UK as to who the baby boomers are. #
Generation Xers. Generation Xers are often considered the “slacker” generation. They naturally question authority figures and are responsible for creating the work/life balance concept. Born in a time of declining population growth, this generation of workers possesses strong technical skills and is more independent than the prior generations. Because Gen Xers place a lower priority on work, many company leaders from the Baby Boomer generation assume these workers are not as dedicated; however, Gen Xers are willing to develop their skill sets and take on challenges and are perceived as very adaptive to job instability in the post-downsizing environment.
Millennials or Generation Ys. This group is the first global-centric generation, having come of age during the rapid growth of the Internet and an increase in global terrorism. They are among the most resilient in navigating change while deepening their appreciation for diversity and inclusion. With significant gains in technology and an increase in educational programming during the 1990s, the Millennials are also the most educated generation of workers today. Additionally, they represent the most team-centric generation as they have grown up at a time where parents programmed much of their lives with sports, music, and recreational activities to keep them occupied while their Boomer parents focused on work. Gen Z: This generation are true digital natives: from their youth, they have been exposed to the internet, social networks, and mobile systems. The newest generation on the block has grown up in a hyper-connected world making them globally connected but politically anxious. Unlike millennials, they’re characterized as very resourceful but they both share the same goal of wanting to have an impact on the world.
As these four generations continue to interact, companies can no longer assume that high pay will secure the top talent. As more Baby Boomers seek “post-retirement careers,” Gen Xers demand challenging but balanced work assignments, Millennials expect high perks in exchange for loyalty therefore, leaders must find creative ways to recruit and retain talent.
Reenergize your compensation and benefits. Companies must approach compensation, benefits, and incentives to satisfy the needs of each generation’s unique perspectives, attitudes, and values about work. For example, as more people retire later in life, many will want a different approach to working as opposed to increased compensation. Younger people may value more flexibility in their careers, like assignments that foster new skill sets they can apply in later years. Older workers may want research assignments and paid sabbaticals during which they can engage in learning programs. Don’t assume that everyone loves your current benefits plan. Many companies now offer flexible hours, alternate work schedules, and telecommuting. Findings from IWG’s Global Business Survey found that each week, 70% of employees are working somewhere other than the office for at least one day.
Expand your communication strategies. Most companies rely too heavily on one strategy for corporate communication. By making the same message available in multiple formats (thus increasing the number of times you communicate a message), you’ll ensure that you reach all workers. Baby Boomers may appreciate verbal communication about changes in policy or procedures, while Generation Xers and Millennials may prefer the use of e-mail, instant messages, or corporate broadcasts.
Conduct generational information awareness/sharing sessions. A great way to get people to work together across the generations is to provide them with an opportunity to educate each other about each generation’s own history, characteristics, milestone events, culture, language, and norms. Rather than talking at your people, have representatives from each age-based generation put together programming to educate people and facilitate dialogue.
Take note of new approaches to employee engagement. There has been a rise in the development of employees mobilising and creating working groups on topics that are important to them. Self-directed groups focused on diversity, including gender, race and sexuality are some of the most common ones present in organisations today. Businesses must take the time to understand the reasons these groups are forming and find ways to support them through integrating them into existing corporate structures without alienating the participants. It’s essential to create an environment where employees can bring their whole selves to work without feeling as if they must hide important parts of their identity to feel comfortable in the workplace.
There has been a rise in the development of employees mobilising and creating working groups on topics that are important to them. Self-directed groups focused on diversity, including gender, race and sexuality are some of the most common ones present in organisations today. Businesses must take the time to understand the reasons these groups are forming and find ways to support them through integrating them into existing corporate structures without alienating the participants. It’s essential to create an environment where employees can bring their whole selves to work without feeling as if they must hide important parts of their identity to feel comfortable in the workplace.
Make mentoring a constant. As your more established and experienced workers head toward retirement, develop strategies to ensure knowledge transfer and capture organisational memory. The more structure you can lend to your mentoring program to create knowledge transfer the better. First determine younger employees’ goals and developmental needs, and then pair them with older, more experienced employees to create cross-organisational dialogue among generations. Consider various mentoring models—one-on-one sessions, group programs, senior leadership discussion panels, and a “speed mentoring” program where employees sit across from company experts to ask questions. No matter what method you choose, making mentoring a part of the employment life cycle will ensure that the company’s history and knowledge continues from one generation to the next.
With the variety of multigenerational employees in today’s workplace, companies can no longer abide by traditional rules of leadership and management. Organisations can achieve real strategic advantage by embracing the diversity among generations to create a flexible work environment that values all people and keeps them productive, regardless of age.
Train yourself and your managers to develop strong interpersonal skills to foster relationships with employees and each other. A leader’s primary responsibility is to ensure that everyone in the organisation understands that “working together” is not negotiable. Create a respectful, open and inclusive environment where workers of all ages and cultural backgrounds can share who they are without fear of being judged, “fixed,” or changed. Leaders must remain open to new ideas and provide constant feedback, working with managers and staff to shape the company’s strategic vision. They must avoid projecting their own expectations about work and remain open to different perspectives based on generational attitudes.
This article was originally posted in our International Website. It was written by Michelle Carson-Williams and Amy Speake, our INAC partners in the UK.