HomeEmployee ExperienceCultureGenerational tensions linked to lower workplace productivity in the UK and US

Generational tensions linked to lower workplace productivity in the UK and US

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Frictions between different generations will lead to dips in productivity, research from LSE shows

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Employees who are much younger than their managers report lower productivity than those closer in age due to a lack of collaboration between employees of different generations, according to new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in collaboration with global consulting firm, Protiviti. 

An external survey conducted by LSE of 1,450 employees in the finance, technology and professional services industries in the UK and USA, found that friction between different generations was driving down productivity

“I am not surprised that we discovered a ‘productivity manager age gap’. There is good evidence that across generations individuals have different tastes and preferences. So why do we expect them to work easily together?” says co-author of the research Dr Grace Lordan, Founder and Director of The Inclusion Initiative at LSE.

The research noted firms need to develop intergenerationally inclusive work practices. These include making it easier for each generation to ‘fit in’, developing and advancing people based on merit rather than age, and committing to a generationally diverse workforce.

“Our research shows that if we invest in giving these skills to managers, and creating an intergenerationally inclusive workplaces there are significant productivity gains to be had,” said Lordon.

Key findings were:

  • 25% of employees surveyed self-reported low productivity.
  • Across generations, low levels of productivity are reported by 37% of Gen Z, 30% of Millennials, 22% of Gen X, and 14% of Baby Boomers.
  • Employees with larger age gaps with their managers report lower productivity. Those with managers more than 12 years their senior are nearly 1.5 times as likely to report low productivity.
  • Generations agree on the skills that are most important to productivity and career advancement. The top 3 skills being: active listening, time-management and judgement and decision making.

An ageing global population means there is less ‘younger talent’ in the pipeline in addition to increased generational diversity, with large firms regularly having five generations working together.

In firms that use intergenerationally inclusive work practices, productivity was higher in younger generations, researchers found. These practices include enabling colleagues of every generation to have similar levels of voice when collaborating and advancing employees based on merit regardless of their age.

The proportion of Gen Z employees reporting low productivity drops from 37% to 18%, and from 30% to 13% for Millennials.

Across the board, 87% of employees reported high productivity levels in firms with intergenerationally-inclusive work practices, compared to just 58% of employees from firms without these practices.

In addition, employees working at intergenerationally inclusive workplaces are twice as likely to be satisfied with their jobs and are less likely to look for a new role.

These findings are especially salient as the OECD predicts that the UK, US and the broader global economy will experience slow growth in 2024, putting pressure on companies to boost productivity.

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