Multi-generational divide: With more people living and working longer, businesses need to accommodate more generations than at any time before. Managing employees at different life stages, often with completely different levels of experience and world views, can be a challenge. So here’s our guide to successfully managing across the multi-generational divide.
The Generation Game
There are now five generations in the workplace as the following research from Barclays shows.
Maturists – pre-1945
- Percentage in UK workforce: 3%
- Aspiration: home ownership
- Attitude to technology: largely disengaged
- Attitude to career: a job is for life
- Communication media: formal letter
- Communication preference: face to face
Baby Boomers – 1945 – 1960
- Percentage in UK workforce: 33%
- Aspiration: job security
- Attitude to technology: early IT adopters
- Attitude to career: careers are defined by employer
- Communication media: telephone
- Communication preference: face to face but phone or email if required
Generation X – 1961 – 1980
- Percentage in UK workforce: 35%
- Aspiration: work-life balance
- Attitude to technology: digital immigrants
- Attitude to career: early portfolio careers; loyalty to profession not employer
- Communication media: email and SMS
- Communication preference: email and SMS
Generation Y – 1981 – 1995
- Percentage in UK workforce: 29%
- Aspiration: freedom and flexibility
- Attitude to technology: digital natives
- Attitude to career: digital entrepreneurs; work with organisations not for
- Communication media: text or social media
- Communication preference: online and mobile messaging
Generation Z – born after 1995
- Percentage in UK workforce: currently employed in part-time jobs or new apprenticeships
- Aspiration: security and stability
- Attitude to technology: technoholics; entirely dependent on IT, low grasp of alternatives
- Attitude to career: career multitaskers; will move seamlessly between organisations and pop-up businesses
- Communication media: hand-held or integrated into clothing devices
- Communication preference: facetime
So what can you do to manage across these generations? What are the golden threads that link them all?
Encourage Diversity, Avoid The Multi-Generational Divide
It’s now well accepted that diversity brings different perspectives and more innovation and creativity. And research shows that more diverse groups tend to focus, question and process facts better than homogeneous groups.
Multi-generational divide also presents the same advantages. To make the most of the full range of experience within your business, encourage employees to work with and listen to people from different age groups.
Cross-generational teams are a good way to share more experienced team members’ insights. And those with less experience can bring completely fresh ideas to the table to prevent thinking from becoming stale.
Cross-training – sharing skills between different roles – will also help to deliver a cross-pollination of perspectives. Which will keep younger generations engaged while respecting the experience of older team members.
Deliver Communications via Multiple Channels
Communication is key to management. But a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work across the different age groups in your business.
Creating a multi-channel communications plan is the best way to ensure you communicate with everyone effectively. Include face-to-face briefings and invest in business social media platforms and blogs as well as the usual all-staff emails, posters and newsletters.
Create Development Opportunities That Appeal to All
Baby Boomers want a career defined by you, their employer. Younger generations want flexibility. The way to appeal to everyone is to create career paths and development opportunities that offer the best of both worlds. Here are a few ideas:
- Allow employees to switch between disciplines to gain new skills and share best practice
- Create a career break policy so staff can take time out form work and come back to their job; this also creates openings for others to step into
- Provide funding for your staff to pursue interests outside of work – by taking them outside of their comfort zone, you’ll help them gain experience that can be redeployed in work
Apply Flexibility to All
Flexible working conjures images of young people working from a trendy cafe. But it can be a lot more than that.
Creating a truly flexible working policy that appeals to all ages is a great way to keep everyone on board. Be open to the idea of letting Generation X employees work from home or create open workspaces that enable Generation Y staff to collaborate with their team.
Maturists and Baby Boomers might like the option to work part-time hours in the wind-down to retirement. And allowing those with caring responsibilities – whether for children or ageing parents – to work flexibly is another way to appeal to all workers.
Although there are marked differences in the ways different generations relate to work, there are lots of ways to manage across the divide. By implementing these ideas, you’ll engage everyone in your workforce and reap the rewards with improved performance and a better bottom line.