For the first time ever there will soon be five generations in the workplace.
As life spans and the retirement age rise, the challenges that this brings are potentially huge. Savvy employers are aware of, and dealing with, the potential problems, but also finding ways of bringing generations together for the benefit of their business.
It’s easy to dismiss difference between the generations as media hype, but research shows that these employees have very different views of how people should act in the workplace, and what their employers have to offer them.
- Baby Boomers: typically born between 1946 and 1964, called ‘Boomers’ as they were born in the period of boom after the end of World War II, and growing up in a world absent from technology.
- Generation X: born between 1965 and 1979, growing up in a period of fast-paced change and independence (think latch-key kids).
- Generation Y: the internet generation, born between 1980 and 1994, used to instant communication.
The friction between Baby Boomers and Generation Y is particularly prevalent. Research shows Baby Boomers are loyal to their employer, traditional, and big believers in presenteeism. Generation Y, on the other hand, are more ambitious and more people-orientated and, perhaps surprisingly, the ones in most need of constant feedback. For them there is no such thing as a job for life, and they expect flexibility (50 per cent have spent less than three years with a company). Older employees can view younger ones as lazy and work-shy; younger ones don’t like hierarchy, which can be mistaken for a lack of respect. Generation X is stuck in the middle, often overlooked.
Issues that may arise
With over a third of employees intending to work over the age of 65, it can be difficult to get these generations working together effectively. However, the problem of age discrimination does not just affect the elder generations. Younger employees can also be subjected to discrimination due to assumptions being made about their skills and abilities. If they cannot communicate with each other effectively, where does this leave your business?
Tips to benefit your business
- flexibility needs to be embraced by all generations - recognise the reasons why the different generations need it.
- putting a stop to stereotypes - understanding differences can be the first step towards acceptance which employers can use to their advantage.
- rather than focusing on the differences between employees, look at how that the generations can collaborate with each other.
Take a look at our generational workforce infographic for more details on the ways employers can understand their multi-generational employees.
The full article was published in City A.M. in 2016, to read it please click here.