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Businesses must adapt to widening generation gap

Discover the complexities and opportunities presented by the multigenerational workforce in today’s evolving workplace landscape.

The spectrum of ages in the modern workplace is one of the broadest it has ever been, with four different generations working side-by-side. This reality creates unique challenges and opportunities for organisations, who must find ways to adapt and prepare for a future in which the spectrum is likely to grow even wider. 

Millennial and Gen Z workers are expected to represent 58% of the workforce in 2030, according to research by Deloitte. But there will still be plenty of Baby Boomers around, not to mention members of Gen X, as well as the first members of Generation Alpha. The reality of a widening generation gap cannot be escaped or ignored. Successful organisations will be the ones who act now to tap into the possibilities and benefits of this reality.

In today’s rapidly evolving workplace, diversity is more than just gender, race, or cultural backgrounds. It extends to the richness brought by different generations. From seasoned Boomers to Zoomers just starting their careers, an intergenerational workforce can be a melting pot of innovation, reliability, wisdom, and fresh perspectives.

The ROI for fostering a generationally diverse workforce is significant. Companies benefit from an array of viewpoints, a more skilled talent pool, and the bridging of skills gaps. Further, diverse companies are more likely to attract top talent, retain employees, increase employee satisfaction, and drive innovation.

HR and DE&I leaders are on the front lines of harnessing this diversity to bolster competitive advantage. Every generation holds unique strengths that can complement others; the trick is to develop practical inclusion strategies to ensure that everyone – irrespective of age – feels a sense of belonging. 

Generational Strengths 

Each generation — whether it be Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, or Gen Z — brings unique perspectives and skills to the table. Of course, generations are full of individuals, but very broadly speaking, the strengths of each generation are: 

  • Baby Boomers: often seen as stable, experienced, and willing to commit long-term 
  • Gen X: may show strong leadership, sceptical thinking, and a blend of traditional and digital literacy 
  • Millennials: tend to be collaborative, tech-savvy, and valuing flexibility and social consciousness. 
  • Gen Z: entering workforce with global mindset, digital nativism, and a desire for meaningful work and growth 

Strategies for Belonging

By understanding the potential strengths of each age group, organisations can create strategies to blend attributes effectively. Encouraging an environment where individuals from all generations feel valued and understood requires deliberate action.

In a recent Talking Talent webinar featuring Working Families CEO Jane van Zyl, a number of strategies were identified that can help foster belonging: 

  • Tailored Communication: Adopt varied communication styles and platforms that cater to the preferences of different age groups without stereotyping 
  • Mentoring and Reverse-Mentoring Programs: In addition to tapping into older employees’ experience through mentoring, it makes sense to establish reverse-mentoring programs, where younger employees share their new perspectives and digital savviness. 
  • Lifelong Learning Opportunities: Offer educational initiatives that appeal across generations and accommodate different learning styles.
  • Flexible Policies: Create work policies that acknowledge the different life stages and needs of employees, from childcare to retirement planning. 

Tackling Ageism 

One of the biggest challenges in delivering a genuine sense of belonging to a multi-generational workforce is ageism – the stereotyping and discrimination against individuals based on their age. Organisations need to be proactive in addressing this. Education and awareness-raising are critical in shaping a culture that values talent irrespective of age. 

To do that requires a nuanced understanding of intergenerational dynamics. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage positive shifts within the work culture that promote diversity in a broader sense. 

Organisational leaders can craft a workforce that is not just age-diverse but truly integrated – one where knowledge flows freely, experiences are valued, and innovation is generated through the fusion of old and new insights. By effectively navigating the challenges and leveraging the strengths of a multigenerational team, organisations stand to gain a huge competitive edge. 

A workplace that appreciates the contributions of all generations is not just a nice-to-have, it’s essential for forging a dynamic, resilient, and forward-thinking organisation.

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