The Generation Game
We are, on average, living longer, and demographic changes will have implications in all areas of life. The aging workforce will soon become one of the main challenges facing organizations. What people want from work is broadly consistent across generations but some older workers may be much less likely to have had opportunities for training, development, and progression. Investment in skills and retraining can redress this imbalance, allowing older workers to reskill and progress in the workplace.
Generational differences in the workplace and the successful management of a diverse body of employees have obvious business benefits. A failure to recognize and account for generational differences and values can cause problems with employee engagement and staff turnover which may lead to distrust, misunderstanding, and even hostility.
People of all ages have recognized that they will need to work for longer. Generation X, in particular, face retirement largely without defined benefit pensions, facing more complex retirement decisions and finding it harder to build up assets.
Intergenerational work has been shown to have a range of benefits for participants. It can help individuals to express their identities, improve their wellbeing, to share a sense of reciprocity, and to develop a better understanding of each other and of community connectedness (Gaggioli et al. 2014). Good relationships, empathy, and perspective taking lead employees to be more supportive towards colleagues from different age groups.
A key driver of supporting people to work for longer is to improve the quality of work. Improving employment practices for older workers will make the workplace better for everyone. Making work better for all workers will benefit individuals the economy and the state, now and into the future.
Talent is at a premium, so anything an employer can do to make themselves attractive to the brightest and best of all ages is worth consideration. Job quality and role design can also help retain your best workers. Employers need to find innovative approaches to role design and use of technology to assist and support employees and enhance the employee experience.
Older employees are most likely to say that working part-time or flexible hours would encourage them to delay retirement but it’s also true that young workers may welcome flexibility to continue studying or bringing up small children. Workplace flexibility from the point of hire onward is crucial to help people manage work-life balance with personal and professional commitments.
There is growing evidence of the benefits of flexible working in broadening the talent pool and improving staff satisfaction. Employees of all ages who are able to work flexibly are more likely to be positive about their job (NIESR, 2017).
Research by the BITC suggests that by 2022, the UK economy will need to fill 14.5 million job vacancies created by people leaving the workforce and by new positions being created. It is estimated that there will only be seven million young people available to fill them – leaving a labor shortage of 7.7 million people.
At 10Eighty we consistently urge the use of meaningful career conversations with all staff on a regular basis. Open and productive workplace conversations about future career planning benefit all parties. Failure to understand what engages and motivates staff prevents both workers and employers from planning for transitions, enabling agile and flexible working and adversely impacts succession planning and knowledge sharing.
Real communication with staff of all ages, at all levels with allow organizations to reap the benefits of an age-inclusive workforce for workers, business and customers. ACAS point out that a cross-generational workforce can create a natural and positive dynamic where age and experience feed off one another.