I noticed that there has been coverage in the news this week about generational conflict in the workplace. Older workers are not retiring and there are more over-50s than ever at work, and, I am happy to say, they are increasingly being seen as vital contributors who will help fill the skills gap in the UK. At the same time as older workers are staying in work longer, Gen Z employees (born after 1996) are now entering the workplace. This means, for the first time, there will be 5 generations of workers that employers will need to manage and motivate. This multi-generational workforce, according to a nationwide report by KPMG could create conflict, with younger workers feeling deprived of career opportunities as their older counterparts work on past the statutory retirement age.
And when it comes to workforce planning, it looks like employers are now being squeezed from both sides; by older workers who want more flexibility and have a higher focus on the ‘life’ end of the work life balance and at the other end of the spectrum, Gen Y and newer members to the workforce, are also expecting the same flexibility.
To add to the pressure, the Government is also actively encouraging an ‘agile workforce’, one that is highly flexible that will help UK businesses remain competitive with a raft of legislation that supports more flexible working practices.
Employers are now expected to rise to the challenge of managing these complex workplace tensions and expectations whilst maintaining high levels of productivity and engagement in their workforce. To do this employers should understand that each generation has its own preferred communication style, values and feedback requirements. Generational conflict will occur when communication and engagement break down. Employers will, therefore, need to work to bridge those gaps through communication, culture and engagement, and a flexible working environment will go a long way to helping meet those diverse generational demands.
The challenges of any multi-generational workforce shouldn’t be underestimated – but with the right tools , good communication and an understanding of the value each generation brings to the workplace – businesses can benefit from a rich and varied workforce that will work happily together to fully meet their organisation’s needs.