Lee Parsons: Understanding generations in your workplace

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An aging population means that for the first time ever we will be seeing five generations within the workplace: traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X, Y and Z.

In order to attract new talent while also retaining the old-fashioned wisdom of mature workers, employers will need to turn to ‘outside the box’ thinking to create a more welcoming workplace that will appeal to a broader group of people.

More and more workplaces are being shared by these generations who all have very dissimilar work experiences. Each of them combined will bring multiple benefits to the workplace; knowledge sharing, fresh perspectives and innovative ideas inspired by working with people of all ages will lead to improved customer service.

For a long time the views within the workplace have been that only older workers who held leadership positions could provide training and pass on knowledge to younger employees. This is no longer the case due to the ever-changing demands of technology and new ways of working.  Businesses can benefit from having a multigenerational management team that can bring a combination of insights and skills to the company.

Generational differences

All of these factors may sound fantastic, but it’s a lot easier said than done when it comes to implementing them into your workplace strategy. Each generation will have different expectations on when, where, and how they work. All of them will have varying beliefs and personal views of the office.

There are many different generational traits to consider in building a successful workforce. For example; baby boomers seem to value personal growth, competitive salaries and believe younger generations need to ‘do the time’ and climb the hierarchy before achieving higher positions. On the opposite end of the spectrum, generation X and Y often challenge hierarchy and believe that progression is reliant on knowledge and skills instead of time spent in a company.

Generation X is familiar with technology and can adapt quickly to change. They value workplace flexibility and are more likely to leave their job if this is not available to them. Similarly to their predecessor, generation Y was born into a world of constant technological advancements; making them able to adapt easily to change. They are tech savvy, keen on being more connected through social media and tend to be generally enthusiastic about work. However, they can see work as an extension of themselves and have a very non-traditional approach to working which consists of an “anywhere and anytime” philosophy.

Office Principles believes that we are currently in the middle of a workplace revolution. The working environment is facing a dramatic rate of change. This leaves business leaders with new challenges as well as opportunities to redefine the office landscape. What will draw these different personalities to your business? How do you retain each of these unique talents after recruiting them?

Revolutionising the workplace

One answer to this is an ‘agile working’ office interior design that is equipped with facilities that will cater to each style of working.

Designing an office for each of these generations is not easy. The place of work needs to outlive its current occupants, as well as be able to cater to the workforce of tomorrow who are currently in primary school. The ultimate goal of an agile office is to create the most proficient way of working by combining design and technology. If this is approached correctly, companies can boost employee performance, communication, and job satisfaction for all generations.

Despite all these gains, CIPD’s research ‘Managing an age-diverse workforce’ reveals that many companies are still neglecting the positives that an age diverse workforce can bring.

Embracing flexibility

Because of the new ways of working, employees are predicted to work longer and the expected retirement age is now anywhere from 66 to 70. The office of today will need to transform for tomorrow’s workforce; not only for those yet to enter the working world generation, but for the aging employees who will remain in employment for much longer than before.

Along with agile working, organisations need to take initiative to embrace the change in working life, such as flexible working and flexible retirement options. Many businesses today still do not support flexible working; therefore they are losing out on numerous beneficial factors that come with recruiting new talent and retaining long-standing employees.

Attracting the best talent within both older and younger generations requires an understanding of the diverse lifestyles and perspectives of the potential employees. A well designed workplace environment along with a fresh recruitment strategy will enable the workforce to be dynamic through different styles of work. This will also promote better communication and a new level of collaboration between each generation, allowing teams to be more diverse and therefore more responsive to change within the organisation.

Taking the time to understand each generation and ingratiating them into your workplace leads to better business performance. As a result, your company will retain top talent; see an increase in productivity, and be well on the way to exceeding your business goals.

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About Lee Parsons

I am the marketing manager at Office Principles. When I'm not busy running marketing campaigns for Office Principles, I really enjoy anything to do with food! I love trying new and exciting flavours and cooking lengthy meals for family and friends.

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  1. Understanding the diversity of the contemporary workplace is fundamental to organisational effectiveness; but it’s got little to do with a simplistic deliniation by generation. I found this argument redundant a decade ago and it is still ‘hocum’. People are different and will exhibit those differences based on a range of influences but to put it into a simplistic and erroneous category of ‘generation’ is devisive and highly discriminatory. Take out the references to generations and focus on the diversity of people as a fact of working life and this then becomes a useful article.

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