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Creating a Strong, Collaborative Multi-Generational Workforce: 4 Must-Do Steps

When COVID-19 struck, one of the critical HR issues for organizations was managing a multigenerational workforce ONLINE. This ongoing global crisis provided an opportunity to revisit the long held approach of segmenting the age groups vs truly understanding and managing different skill and workforce profiles.

What is a multigenerational workforce?

A multigenerational workforce (often also referred to as an intergenerational workforce) is a workforce consisting of workers in multiple generations or age groups from different professional backgrounds, diverse countries, or diverse sectors. The term ‘multigenerational’ was first popularized by Harvard Business Review in a report entitled “How To Thrive In A Multigenerational Workforce.” That term referred to a situation in which a worker in one generation is affected by the choices of a new worker in a different generation. The additional ‘g’ added to the term provides a specific emphasis on the generational impact, a subtle but important distinction. Lest we fall into the trap of thinking it is all about kids vs. grandparents, the picture is actually quite complex.

Creating and maintaining a strong multi-generational workforce

Having said that, there are clear steps organizations must take to address the unique needs of different demographics – one who constitutes a fast growing and transforming workforce around the world. This is where companies have recognized that staffing requires dynamic skill sets and as a result, employers have taken a more proactive stance to commit to actively engaging employees at all stages of their lifecycle. Case in point, during the onset of the pandemic, some organizations have expanded their Health, Safety & Security teams to be more inclusive and more diverse—catering to different policies according to gender, age, capabilities and resources.   

Engaging the younger generation IN THE WORKPLACE

For the past several years, HR professionals and practice leaders within the executive education industry have seen an increasing number of Generation Y attendees who are seeking flexible, part-time, and non-traditional jobs. Nearly half (47 percent) are seeking career opportunities in the private sector after college graduation, and approximately one-third (33 percent) of Generation Y respondents said they have never worked full-time during their adult lives. In comparison, only a third (34 percent) of the age groups above them report being unemployed or underemployed. This new approach to working life poses unique challenges, from growth in contingent labor to the shift in employees’ value systems towards flexible work.

Four key steps to build a collaborative, multi-generational workforce

1. Encourage the growth and development of an Subject Matter Expert (SME ecosystem)

Providing multi-generational training through the use of effective digital technologies and proven, high quality, training materials is vital.  Striving to personalize learning for all means providing the right training to the right worker at the right time to help them maximize their capabilities, skills and capacity. The adage of hire smarter; train smarter makes for the right investments in technology in considering how training materials, equipment and even soft skills can be integrated into a single and contextualized online platform.

2. Recruitment

A data-driven approach enables the engagement of the engaged or employed (teens-25, “rookies”-25-35, and regular/permanent employees)- who are mutually determined by the talent required. While it takes work to develop, an appropriate engagement solution addresses important issues such as demographics of high demand vs demographic, location, individual psychographic factors and regional differences in talent/skill requirements. A marketplace approach, like that used  in newer online sourcing platforms can be adopted internally, where talent can be specified with localized salaries and benefits by profession and location, also makes sense in a multigenerational workforce.

3. Training and Development

The first step is to establish a strong line of communication and an overall structure of business processes that is accessible to all employees across organizational demographic zones. Support must be available at all times, for any employee, and linked to the employee’s performance management and development plan. It’s important that before the end of this year all employee engagement activities such as Performance Management Planning and Development, Merit Management, Leadership Development, Leadership Development Enrichment, are linked to individual employee records, much like we see on our organization’s payroll card.  

4. Communication and Leadership

If managers and supervisors remain too siloed in their roles, they are likely to create a work environment where employees feel disconnected. They are not going to be able to develop and measure employee engagement and performance, or understand how their decisions impact productivity and operations. The age-related skill gap can be exacerbated by managers’ own generational gaps. Organizations can improve the generational diversity in their workforce by sharing knowledge and experience across generations. Organizations are seeing improved workplace engagement and productivity by empowering the current workforce, and assisting the next generation into the workforce.  

2020 will be the landmark year remembered for creating chaos across the globe and has changed how we view and manage our working life every day. Employees had no choice but to be flexible and resilient to ensure business continuity in their respective organizations. Companies in turn, need to support them by seizing the opportunity, ensuring they can thrive no matter what diversity they hold within themselves

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