Mind The Gap – Rising To The Challenge Of A Multi-Generational Workforce

generation-divide-shutter-ubj_280I 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.

Find out more in these white papers:  ‘The Ageing Workforce’  and ‘Reaping the Rewards of Flexible Working’

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How technology can help bridge the generational gap in the UK’s workforce

Here is an article that was published in ITProPortal that was written by my colleague, Neil Pickering, Head of UK Marketing, that links nicely with my blog ‘Working with a well-connected generation’

How technology can help bridge the generational gap in the UK’s workforce

IT Pro Portal 21 July 2013It was interesting to read KPMG’s recent report, which examined the tensions between Britain’s ageing workforce and it Generation Y workers. As older colleagues are postponing retirement plans and intend to work for longer, the younger generation of workers see this as a direct threat on their career progression.

In line with these findings, much has been said about the UK’s ageing population and the impact that it will have on employees, employers and the economy.

The KPMG report suggests that only 20 per cent of respondents believe employees will want to retain older colleagues, in order to learn from their experience. As such, employers need to consider the changing nature of the workforce.

Skills shortages

In a report released by Talentsmoothie, it was revealed that during the next decade there will be some 13.5 million job vacancies in the UK. With only 7 million school and college leavers predicted in that same time, it will create an enormous gap that will need to be plugged. This reaffirms the notion that there is an imperative need for younger employees to learn from their older peers.

This prediction also suggests that the future skills shortages should, and will, be filled with ‘older workers.’ This will provide a proven business benefit by fostering an environment of learning and knowledge sharing. It has often been said that the older generation of employees are the main untapped source of hidden labour talent. Organisations must equip themselves to recruit and retain them, for the growth of their business.

Technology requirements for Gen Y

The consumerisation of IT has led to Gen Y employees having an expectation for business apps to be as intuitive as mainstream platforms such as Facebook and Google. These expectations show how much technology has grown, and how the younger generation regard the interface of business apps as crucial to their work life. These requirements for Gen Y employees may also be seen as a factor in causing generational tensions, with older colleagues not willing to embrace new technology trends within their organisations.

Gen Y employees will one day become the decision-makers in UK businesses. They have grown up with the thought that IT just works and doesn’t necessarily involve lots of equipment, support or maintenance. The next generation of employees (Gen Z) will be even more advanced and there will perhaps be a time when Gen Y will face the same challenges their elders are experiencing today.

It will be interesting to see if generational tensions will continue to exist in the years ahead. Employers must align themselves with this trend in order to stimulate the Gen Y employees with an innovative environment, as they have grown up in a fast paced world where technological enhancements arrive thick and fast. Not only will these employees then be more accustomed to the processes in place, but it can increase morale and enhance productivity.

Mobility benefits

Technological advancements in workforce management tools have increased the ability for Gen Y workers to interact with their employer through mobile devices. These tools allow them to book holiday requests, trade shifts with colleagues and review benefit balances, to name just a few.

These processes enhance productivity, as managers are able to engage their employees ‘from the floor’ almost instantaneously, with minimal expenditure of admin resource. Many organisations are starting to realise that long term business strategies need to take into account the changing demographics of the workforce.

The job of managing people’s work schedules, regardless of age, will require a shift in attitude which needs to start evolving now. The underlying message from many people’s minds is whether these gaps can be merged and the skills gaps filled.

How technology can play a part in this process

Technology will play its part in facilitating the changes required in helping businesses align with the changing nature of the workforce. The ability to deploy the best possible resource, in the right place and at the right time can have a significant impact on business performance. From improved quality in production, faster time to market and better customer service, the impact of effective workforce management can drive revenue and customer satisfaction. However, as part of this, it’s also the role of the employer to put aside any prejudice that still surrounds this group and recognise the ageing workforce as an opportunity for change rather than a problem.

Organisations must be prepared to implement technological advancements such as business apps to cater to Gen Y employees, but also scheduling tactics to deploy the right employees to tasks they will excel in, regardless of age.

Whether the employee is 16 or 60, software can help put the right person in the right place at the right time to meet business demand, taking into account their experiences, skills and preferences. This is something managers should seriously consider to cope with the ever changing workforce landscape.

Flexibility wins over employees across generations – Employers are you listening?

Flexible WorkingAccording to a recent survey carried out by PwC across their global workforce (44,000 employees); Generation Y workers (employees born between 1980 and 1995), would choose workplace flexibility, work/life balance and the opportunity for overseas assignments over financial rewards. As this generation will make up 50% of the working population by 2020, PwC believes it is vital organisations understand this generation and realise they may have to completely re-think how they attract and manage their workers or risk losing talent to companies that do adapt.

The impending skills gap, when more employees will be retiring than entering the workforce, plus the increase in the numbers of workers at the peak of their career having to balance the demands of work and caring for both a younger family and ageing parents also means it will become more important than ever for employers to fully engage their employees in order to reduce the effects of these pressures and offer flexible working.

With flexible working moving ever higher up the agenda for many organisations, it does look as though employers are getting the message. Some research carried out by XpertHR has found over 3/4 of responding employers grant between 75% and 100% of requests from employees to work flexibly, while almost half said that up to 20% of their employees already work flexibly.

It is widely acknowledged that flexible working improves employee engagement and reduces absence but it is important that it is managed in a way that is fair and unbiased if you don’t want to breed resentment in your organisation. It has to be available across the organisation from ‘shop floor’ to senior executives. It is no longer acceptable for senior executives to have their own unofficial flexible working pattern whilst other employees are expected to work 24/7.

By supporting flexible working with a real-time, effective workforce management system, employers will find it much easier. Some of the issues cited by employers like the complexity of scheduling working hours, making it seem fair and equitable and tracking employee hours worked can all be addressed with the help of an automated solution that can provide both managers and employees with information whenever or wherever employees may be working.