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’

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.

CIPD say employers are ‘missing a trick’ if they don’t offer older workers flexible working

Simon MacphersonAlthough I am currently enjoying a great holiday I wanted to take the opportunity to wish everyone in my Staff Central blog world a very Happy New Year! With the old year being ushered out with the end of the Mayan calendar (not an apocalyptic ending  it would seem but the beginning of a new era) – I thought it would be good to look at some of the popular topics around workforce management and see if there’s more news and ideas I can share with you before I turn my thoughts back to rest and relaxation.

One of the topics I covered last year around workforce management was flexible working and the ageing workforce. By 2020 it is estimated that 36% of the working population will be over 50. Following on from the recent discussions about the ageing workforce and employment in the House of Lords, the CIPD have again reminded employers that they are ‘missing a trick’ if they don’t offer flexible working to a workforce of which over half plan to work beyond the state retirement age. According to research findings employers who do not make allowances and offer some flexibility will be losing out on ‘better customer service, enhanced knowledge retention and a workforce that can help to address talent and skills shortage’, however, at this time it has been reported that over three quarters (76%) of employers have made no allowances in their workplace for an older workforce.

Making adjustments to working hours, workload and even working environments can enable older workers to remain productive or even become more productive. There is plenty of guidance out there for employers who want to take advantage of this opportunity and Kronos have produced a whitepaper ‘The ageing workforce a challenge or an opportunity?’ that makes interesting reading.

Perhaps one of this year’s resolutions for employers should be to think about flexible working, how they will manage and monitor it and what adjustments they could make in order to ‘Reap the rewards of flexible working’ , again you can read more in the informative white paper.