Our current workforce is being filled with young fresh graduates, individuals that belong to a completely new generation, Generation Z (Gen Z). But did you know, including Gen Z, we are having four vastly different generations working under one roof? The gaping diversity in age, experiences, skill sets, technological understanding, and behaviours have definitely contributed to the already complex HR landscape we are facing today.
So, is a multi-generational workforce an advantage or a threat?
Read more: The importance of talent management
What generations are in the workplace right now?
Generation Z comprises those who were born from 1997 to 2012. The oldest of this generation is starting to make an appearance in various companies, and maybe in yours too. Working alongside Gen Z are three other cohorts: Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y.
Each of these generations experienced a very unique series of events, which have essentially formed their distinct characteristics. Thus, their career paths, aspirations, or work attitudes greatly vary from one generation to another, even to their predecessor - the Silent Generation, who just about a decade ago still constituted a sizable portion of the global workforce.
What do these five generations look like? No need to scour the Internet for the answer. We made an infographic just for that.
With stark uniqueness, managing all four cohorts at the same time equates to both opportunities and challenges.
Read more: Is Gen Z the new Gen Y (Millennials)?
Does a multi-generational workforce pose a challenge?
Millennials, or Gen Y, together with Gen Z, will soon be the largest cohort to dominate and lead the workplace with their digital savviness, flexibility, and open-mindedness.
When researching challenges in managing a multi-generational workforce, you will undoubtedly be presented with countless resources pointing towards communication-related issues.
We usually hear that technology is the “divider” causing a disconnection between departments or human beings. However, the suitable technology can help boost collaboration among your employees, enabling a smooth flow of information in real-time via a shared digital workplace.
For instance, Baby Boomers may prefer a more formal, traditional view on the corporate structure. They are accustomed to the authoritarian leadership style and respond better with constructive feedback regarding their work ethic and dedication. On the other hand, Gen X, Y and Z generally prefer more frequent and immediate feedback. Thus, they are less likely to align with an authoritarian style of leadership.
As such, getting messages across different age groups requires a deep understanding of your workforce and a more streamlined communication method.
Nevertheless, humans will never resolve communication issues regardless of the era they are living in.
It is also worth mentioning that the global workforce today is not only multi-generational and diverse, it is also greatly dispersed.
A company could have employees and interns that live on the other side of the world and never set foot into their physical headquarters. So they mainly collaborate with colleagues and carry out their daily responsibilities virtually.
Our teams at TRG International experienced the shift in the workplace model when the pandemic struck. Our usual in-office activities got moved online to protect our members and client's health. The swift move, though, fascinatingly did not disrupt our daily communications and service deliveries to our clients.
Gradually, we no longer define the office as a “cubicle within a concrete office building within a metropolitan area” but practically any place, anywhere in the world, as long as our TRGers feel most comfortable and productive.
The world of work is changing, and we are prepared to meet a new disruption with confidence.
Since the shift to a more flexible workplace model combined with our virtual internship program, we have witnessed an influx of interns from all walks of life and across all ages. We now have 50+ years old interns living in Australia and the UK working alongside team leaders in Vietnam who are in their mid-twenties.
Forget your age
We believe a multi-generational workforce is not a threat, and age gaps are becoming irrelevant in today’s dynamic and complex HR landscape.
COVID-19 is just one ingredient that spices up the mix. Rapid technological advancements, culture shifts, and organisational changes are other major factors that cause employees to reinvent themselves multiple times throughout their careers.
People are postponing retirement. Science and better healthcare have made longer lives possible. Globally, it is predicted that there will be more people over the age of 55 than children under 15 by 2035*.
Employees are given the freedom to work however and wherever they want. Thus, many people keep marching on past their traditional retirement age and contributing as much as they can because it is becoming socially acceptable. As a result, companies will witness a “grey wave” to remain prevalent in the workforce; many of them may hold key strategic positions.
Aside from holding vital positions, as we have mentioned earlier, experienced workers are trying out a completely new career path with an entry-level role. Thus on the flipped side, young professionals being in leadership roles are becoming acceptable or even desirable.
All generations are equally open to improving their skills.
TRG International Founder and CEO, Rick Yvanovich, discussed in great detail the Infinite Mindset and how it is not a euphoric ideology, but a way to move forward. Check out his work here.
Sadly, there are lingering stereotypes such as a professional needs to reach a certain number of years of experience to become a leader, or those in the higher management level no longer need to be further developed.
Likewise, Deloitte disapproves of the above stereotypes believing forward-looking companies should instead focus on engaging employees across generations through meaningful, productive multistage and multidimensional careers. Companies need to rethink their talent strategies and personal development programs, with personalisation playing a central role.
From our experience, instead of solely focusing on age or generation, companies should include cross-training for different positions focusing on the development of transferable skills. This training can have double effects in which it keeps your younger generations engaged while honouring your experienced senior teammates.
Furthermore, as your employees move on to other life choices/ career advancements, companies need to have succession plans in place to combat the loss of critical positions. The plan makes you well aware of the current talent pool and allows you to start nurturing the new crop from day one. This, in turn, makes your young employees feel more engaged as they now see the potential for future development.
All in all, it comes down to knowing who your teammates are, the way they communicate, their beliefs and sources of motivation. Such information is the foundation to enable you to unlock their full capabilities and increase their engagement with your organisation. However, using an age-based segmentation approach in today’s highly dynamic and complex labour landscape is insufficient.
Just like how personalisation is now a prominent aspect of our lives and is the foundation of every marketing and ad campaign, utilising the same concept in reimagining your talent management practices is the way forward in a business-as-unusual world.
Let's take this chance to get to know our youngest addition to the workforce, Gen Z, who will one day replace Millennials and become the next-best world's leaders. Your dedication towards nurturing this special cohort can potentially shape their careers for good, so make it count.
Don't get swamped! Be prepared and do your research beforehand with this whitepaper. Check it out!