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The multigenerational workforce

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The multigenerational workforce is upon us, but what does this mean for management? We ask HR experts their opinion and insights into this broad topic.

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We’re now facing a workplace where five generations are now present. This dynamic could potentially prove challenging to manage. Employees will naturally have differing expectations of what they want from work. These generations include; Veterans (1939-1947), Baby Boomers (1948-1963), Generation X (1964-1978) and Millennials(1979-1991), and Generation Z.

Managing multigeneratons can be done in numerous ways, avoiding stereotypes and labeling is important because you need to cater to the individual’s needs. Mentoring is also a very personal way of spanning all generations by coaching them individually.

We spoke with numerous HR professionals and asked them: “What are the key challenges with managing a multigenerational workforce, and how would you best advise those who are facing these challenges?”

David Roberts, HR Director – Technology and Product, Worldpay

We’ve got labels for different generations and apparently, I can call myself a millennial, all be it by 1 month! In my experience I would argue that each generation has different needs and thus should be treated in different ways if we truly want to engage, retain and get the best out of them. I would argue generations before me desire increased:

I would also argue generations following me have more choice in the market and desire:

  • Autonomy to do their job and learn in their own way
  • Less active leadership
  • Career progression at a faster rate.

So how do you manage these different needs? Firstly, I think we will see more movement of workforce in newer generations, so we shouldn’t panic if we do see a number of employees leaving us 2 or 3 years into their time with us. However, if we want to keep that talent whilst motivating all employees, we need to tailor our leadership, solutions and tools available.

I would suggest we move away from one-size-fits all people solutions and invest in leaders to ensure we have the most capable leaders who can flex their style and approach to different desires. Can we as organisations also remove hierarchy’s, formal practices like regular performance management and create more flexibility. We can provide guidance on career paths and learning & development platforms where employees can develop with expectations but with the freedom to do so. This satisfies new generations needs but also allows leaders to give formality, more active leadership and communications if needed.

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD.

Demographic change will have a profound effect on the UK labour market in the coming years, and some of that impact is already being felt. Almost a third (30%) of people in employment in the UK today are over the age of 50, and there are unlikely to be enough younger people entering the labour market to replace this group when they leave the workforce, taking their skills and experience with them.

Different industries face different challenges, but all employers will have to adapt their working practices to manage and support a more age-diverse workforce. They need to recognise the potential issues they face, such as skills shortages, productivity challenges, labour shortfalls and an inability to meet customer service and production targets.

In order to adapt, firms require buy-in from the top, with boards and senior management leading the way in developing a strategy for coping with a diverse workforce. Any strategy should take a holistic approach and focus on:

  • Inclusive recruitment – ensuring that relevant people aren’t intentionally or otherwise excluded from the recruitment process
  • Improving the capability of line managers – ensuring that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to manage people of all ages with different types of challenges
  • Supporting employee health and wellbeing – ensuring that organisations have processes in place to proactively identify health problems and support to reduce the chance of workforce exit
  • Creating more flexible working opportunities  – based on a clearer understanding of the business case and greater awareness among business leaders and line managers of their role in creating genuinely flexible workplaces to ensure older workers can stay in work  in a role and in hours that suit them and mean that their skills and expertise is retained for longer

Pete Lowe, Leadership Consultant 

Making the correct decisions is management but getting individuals to overcome individual differences, unique skill sets to develop without fear of failure and where all the sum of the parts come together as one is leadership and this issue is a leader’s challenge. The following are key challenges:

  • Where all think alike nothing ever changes! Culture is huge and allows skills to evolve, people to challenge through talent and character, and teams within teams to develop. This must be leadership led and encouraged by the leaders Standard of Performance, his way of doing things that sings his vision and beliefs, but it also sings “team”
  •  Know your team, who they are, what the are like under pressure, the unique skill sets of everyone
  •  If the environment is so big that you cannot do so then make sure that your leaders do!
  • Then mix and match teams of all generations based on skill sets/abilities
  • Prevent comfort zone dwelling where staff seek a safe place with their chosen partners. Give them different experiences and different work partners based on strengths and what each can give to each other. This encourages collaboration and trust
  • Leaders must know individuals for who they are and not the generation they belong to avoid labelling
  • Leaders create leaders and a key aspect of a winner’s mindset is accepting responsibility. Mixing teams helps experiences to influence mindsets and create key commonalities among teams

Anne Sheehan, Enterprise Director, Vodafone UK

As a new generation of digitally-savvy young people enter the workforce, British businesses must be prepared to adapt. In our own research, we found that almost half (46%) of Gen Z- workers would consider leaving their current employer for the ability to work more flexibly elsewhere, compared to just one-in-five Baby Boomers.

Examining how and where people need to work is the first step to understanding how the introduction of smarter processes and technologies can help. Each employee, job, organisation and customer will have different expectations and requirements, meaning there is no one size fits all when it comes to working practices. However, our research shows that both technology and teamwork are seen as important by employees of all ages in making them productive at work

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