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New World of Work

From Millennials to Baby Boomers: How to have a successful inter-generational workforce

By 29 March 2017No Comments

The wide age range of employees in many modern businesses means that it is essential for an organisation to understand how to manage an inter-generational workforce. Baby boomers are working alongside millennials, and before successful collaboration is possible, the generational warfare narrative needs to be minimised.

There are a number of stereotypes associated with each generation, older workers are more rigid and unable to cope with change, while younger employees are flighty and want more freedom, whilst being resentful of older workers. For a business to successfully navigate an inter-generational workforce, they need to minimise these perceptions, and open the minds of their employees up to a mutually beneficial partnership.

A truly cohesive workforce sees the advantages of each of its employees. The younger generation has the university education and the technical know-how, but it’s the older generation who has the experience and maturity that you do not learn in school. Each generation can learn from each other, their skill sets can complement each other and their shared experience can create a more rounded workforce. Younger employees are able to respect the knowledge and resilience of their older co-workers, whilst the older employees are able to experience new ideas and technology of the advancing workplace.

There is opportunity for a business to capitalise on the generational gap, with diversity of ideas, ability to connect with different segments of the market and alternate routes of problem solving opening up your business to success. In fact, better decisions are made when they are made through collaboration of the workforce, as you get different perspectives debating to find the best outcome for everyone. It is important to understand that each person’s approach to work will be different, there is no right or wrong with generational approaches, just different.

While younger workers have their education, it is the knowledge that is gained from experience and time in the workforce which is critical, therefore it is your older workers who are the key to this knowledge transfer. As they begin to consider retirement, there is the potential for a ‘brain drain’, where the workforce loses a significant number of experienced workers, and their wealth of knowledge with them. Assuming the younger generation opens themselves up to learn, this knowledge doesn’t have to be lost to retirement. These skills and knowledge are critical to the everyday running of the business, but also the history of an organisation. Older workers have lived the mistakes and successes, they know what has and hasn’t worked in the past, and this information could be key in making sure that the younger generation does not make the same mistakes.

The ‘New World of Work’ is also calling for a more technological workplace. Freedom and flexibility are two core elements, with technology making remote working more than a possibility. But as the cloud and other technological innovations becomes central to business, it’s important that the entirety of the workforce agrees with the digital innovation. Younger employees may be more open to integrating technology into their everyday working life, but don’t underestimate educating employees of changes and informing them the why and the how the technological change will be of assistance. Be willing to educate employees on how the technology works, and have help on hand to assist troubleshoot any issues which may arise.

It’s important to focus on the job, not the age. Every employee is there for a purpose, and if they are doing their job, they shouldn’t have to worry about distractions such as age. Encourage inter-generational workforces to see beyond labels, and to collaborate with the purpose of furthering your business in this new world of work.

Purnima Kabra