June 8th, 2016

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While new generations are entering the workforce as you read this, older generations aren’t necessarily going anywhere, and you shouldn’t necessarily want them to. In fact by 2030, one in three people in the workforce will be over the age of 65. In all likelihood your team will be a whole range of ages and as a result will have a varied set of needs and expectations in the workplace – Humankind is certainly no exception to this! Two aspects of a future proof culture which will be expected and appreciated by all generations are flexibility and wellness. We know these are benefits which only work if there is trust between employers and employees, which isn’t as easy as you might think. We also believe these aspects of culture will support workforce planning and retention of all generations – something which can be a challenge for many businesses.

Businesses (us included) have a lot of learning to do around how to get the most benefit out of the skill diversity of different generations in the workplace. A good manager will look for ways to bridge skills gaps between team members – for example finding a system where older employees can swap their wealth of experience with younger employees’ fresh perspective and knowledge of new technology and processes. Reverse Mentoring, a term coined by former General Electric CEO Jack Walsh, is one excellent example of a bottom up focussed initiative where younger employees team up with employees of older generations to teach them about new skills and technology they may not be familiar with. The success of such a system will ride on employees placing equal value on each others’ skills, something that will boil down to the culture of the business.

Perception is another big factor to take into account when managing a team of multiple generations. One example we have been seeing a lot of lately is a continued negative perception of Gen Y as wanting to come in and run the show from day 1, which in our experience has just simply not been the case.

Managing across generations will always be a balancing act – the Friday night drinks that younger team members appreciate may not be equally enthused by your longer standing employees. The challenge here will be understanding your team dynamic to actively support collaboration between employees of all ages.

Business owners and managers need to be able to recognise what the different generations of their workforce bring to the table and find ways to draw out and optimise these skills- a successful business in this regard is one that is able to see as much value in years of experience as in new ideas and skill sets.
Let us know if your workplace places emphasis on intergenerational skill integration and how they go about it in the comment section below.


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