For the first time ever, we are seeing five generations work together, resulting in a myriad and clash of working and communication styles, motivations, preferences, perceptions and personalities.
Not surprisingly, that might inevitably lead to challenges in trying to understand and communicate with people across different age groups. Despite this, a multi-generational workforce give companies a competitive advantage.
According to a recent Randstad workmonitor study that surveyed 400 employees and job seekers in Singapore, 85% said that they are already working in a multi-generational team. While this may look like a good percentage at first glance, we know that many employers are still being challenged with managing the dynamics of a multi-generational workforce.
Employers need a higher level of awareness of the potential benefits and challenges of a multi-generational workforce as there is no one-size-fits-all solution to it. As a start, employers need to take time to understand the different career motivators and aspirations of the various generations. Companies that can leverage these differences will be able to bring out the best in their people, build a healthy talent pipeline and ensure sustainable business growth.
Today’s multi-generational workforce is made up of the following groups:
- Born between 1925 and 1945: Pre-Boomers, who are also known as the Silent Generation or Traditionalists
- Born between 1946 and 1965: Baby Boomers
- Born between 1965 and 1976: Generation X
- Born between 1977 and 1994: Generation Y who are also known as the Millennials
The labour market will soon welcome a new emerging group of young talent called Generation Z (known as the ‘iGeneration’), who are born from 1995 onwards.
Pros of a multi-generational workforce
1. It drives innovation.
In the same Randstad study, 83% said that they are able to come up with more innovative ideas and solutions because they work in an age-diverse team. Younger people who have grown up during the Digital Revolution have greater exposure to digitalisation and innovation, and are thus more open to embracing new technology and agile ways of working. Mature professionals, on the other hand, can contribute by sharing their specialist knowledge and industry experience with the younger generation, and help guide their ideas to achieve practical business objectives.
By encouraging such open collaboration, teams are empowered to co-create initiatives that combine past learnings with new innovation for greater efficiency.
2. It builds a healthy talent pipeline.
Companies that tap into the wide range of knowledge, ideas and unique strengths from each generation will have a distinct advantage in having a future-ready workforce. A strong internal talent pipeline also helps employers reduce hiring costs and focus their resources on training courses that are developed to deepen individual’s capabilities and create more opportunities for internal promotions.
3. It promotes the sharing of best practices and different perspectives.
Experienced professionals are extremely valuable to the business as they have acquired a tremendous wealth of knowledge and skills throughout their career. In particular, they can play an instrumental role in the career development of younger employees by sharing critical knowledge and experience that typically require years to acquire, such as having a strong commercial acumen and ability to develop effective business management strategies.
There is also an increasing trend of ‘reverse mentoring’, which means that mature employees are being paired with and mentored by younger staff on technology, social media and current trends.2
The more people interact with each other in the office, the more they can understand and learn from each other’s insights, perspectives and ideas. Companies that foster an engaging environment and communicate their successes of having a collaborative multi-generational workforce gain a competitive advantage in attracting both young and mature talent.
Challenges of a multi-generational workforce: Different working styles & communications
Randstad also found that 44% of Singapore employees and job seekers said that they find it difficult to communicate with co-workers who are not from their age group. This is hardly surprising, considering the distinct differences in the preferred communication tools, style and tone between the different generations. In addition, new and emerging communication channels, such as Twitter and Skype, have only made it more challenging for people to communicate and align with each other.
The best way to get around these differences is to have an open and empathetic mindset. This means learning to accept viewpoints and perspectives that are different from yours, having friendly debates with your colleagues and evaluating issues objectively by looking at the facts and data.
Avoid making any ill-informed remarks or jumping into conclusions before hearing each other out. Instead, learn to communicate in the style and manner the other person prefers. When working in a multi-generational environment, it is critical to respect your co-workers, no matter what their age is.