The increase in multi-generational teams in your workforce
The average lifespan has been increasing and pensions are being moved back so more people are choosing to work well past the typical retirement age. The age diversity in the current workforce is the widest ever. Therefore, multiple generations comprise today’s workforce and each has varied work habits, expectations and communication styles. It is now common for organisations to have employees working side-by-side who represent four to five generations.
These groups are defined as:
Silent Generation (Traditionalists) – born 1928-1945
Baby Boomers – born 1946-1964
Generation X – born 1965-1980
Generation Y (Millennials) – born 1981-1996
Generation Z – born 1997-2012
The presence of multiple generations expands the pool of available talent and shifts its demographics. Still, many employers have not placed a significant focus on taking advantage of this.
Harvard Business Review commented that this presents managers leading multigenerational teams with many opportunities and, of course, even more challenges:
When we fundamentally can’t relate to someone because they are so much younger or older than ourselves, it’s hard to see things from their perspective. We often resort to using harmful stereotypes and blame solvable problems on one another instead of working to understand the differences that distance us.
To realise the benefits and power of a generationally diverse workforce, we need to learn how to collaborate and appreciate our unique preferences, habits, and behaviours.
Forbes goes on to say that many workplaces are unintentionally negating their own staff. How often have you heard someone complain with a stereotypical comment that Millennials are entitled? Or that Gen-Xers are lazy? Or that Baby Boomers resist change?
Numerous studies show that multigenerational teams are more innovative and better at problem-solving. Each brings a unique perspective based on experience, which is heavily influenced by age. Yet everyone wants to be treated as individuals, not stereotyped as a member of a group. To reap the benefits of a multigenerational workforce, front-line managers need to understand potential generational differences, defuse them when they create conflict, and capitalise on them to promote positive team dynamics.
The value of diversity in the workplace is well established. A 2019 study by researchers at Walden University found that diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones in innovation, decision making, productivity, and effectiveness. Multigenerational teams bring valuable diversity through a wider range of experiences, skills, and approaches. Attracting and retaining top employees of all ages is a critical aspect of effective talent management - something that often gets overlooked.
Employees of different ages bring unique perspectives, life experiences, and approaches to their work. While managing a multigenerational workforce has its challenges, the rewards are well worth the effort. Multigenerational teams are on the rise, with managers and workers embracing benefits. Yet employers need to recognize that diverse teams can present new and different demands on skills training.
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