Is your company embracing a multi-generational workforce?

If current trends run a steady path, in 2030 the UK workforce will be multi-generational, older, and more international, with women playing a stronger role.” states the report The Future of Work Jobs and Skills in 2030, from The UK Commission for Employment and Skills, (UKCES).

Do you have three or more generations working within your company? If you haven’t you could be missing a trick!

With Gen Z (born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s) now joining the workforce, the fact is the workplace is now multi-generational for many organisations. With that comes the need to embrace different communication styles, expectations and values.

This should be seen as a positive as it creates a melting pot of ideas, views, experiences and different skills – giving any company that embraces it the chance of real innovation based on the diversity of their biggest asset – their people.

The UKCES report goes on to state: “The UK’s population and labour force are experiencing a marked ageing process as the “baby boom” generation reaches state pension age and older people participate in the labour market for longer. The population aged 65+is projected to increase by 42% in the period to 2030, whilst the population aged 16-64 is expected to grow by only 3%. Over the next decade the number of economically active people aged 65+ is projected to increase by a third. Workplaces will become more multi-generational, with four generations working together.”

The world of work is changing and unfortunately many businesses are not doing enough to recruit from an increasingly age diverse talent pool. Even amongst those companies that are, many simply aren’t equipped to manage their age diverse teams once they are in place to maximise their potential.

Companies that have recognised the value have reported important business benefits. These include knowledge sharing and enhanced customer service, while employees clearly enjoy the new perspectives and fresh ideas inspired by working with a wide age range of colleagues.

It is clear that businesses should do more to tap into the variety of skills that an age diverse workforce can bring. This will also involve ensuring that they are able to support the extension of working life too. This would alleviate talent shortages in some areas within specific STEM related disciplines where skills are hard to find, and also will allow for cascading of more traditional but still highly relevant skills to younger generations too.

What this does mean is that businesses need to consider the very differing working expectations that each of these generations have. These are driving new challenges and opportunities within the workplace. Trying to prepare and encourage Generation Y for executive-level roles, for example, will need creative solutions, as this generation do not generally join one company and have a desire to stay with them for the majority of their career.

Flexible, innovative companies that consider Generation Ys’ needs will be better positioned to attract good management-potential employees and retain them, filling the gaps that will appear as the last of the working Boomers do eventually retire.

Managing multi-generational recruitment and expectations is evidently always going to be a challenge. New generations have always changed management structures and that will continue to happen across not just STEM related industries, but all sectors. What is very clear is that each of the generations brings a different set of skills and life experiences to the workplace which can be used positively to increase diversity of knowledge and perspectives.

However, every employee, from any generation, has unique needs and skills and each one needs to feel valued. So, it is critical to recognise that one size does not fit all in terms of employee engagement. The successful companies will be the ones that engage with their workforce in generation appropriate ways too. Food for thought indeed over the next decade.

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