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Managing a Diverse Workforce

As the average age of the population increases, it is no secret that more people are staying on at work than are retiring, and for the first time, there will be at least four generations collaborating with each other in the workplace.

As the average age of the population increases, it is no secret that more people are staying on at work than are retiring, and for the first time, there will be at least four generations collaborating with each other in the workplace. 

With varying age groups and mind-sets come varying goals. Therefore, organisations need to develop proactive ways of effectively managing such a diverse workforce in order to benefit from its different constituents – whether that is the employee with 10 years of valuable experience under their belt, or the digitally savvy, ambitious new hire.  This would ultimately result in a progressive business model that is not only profitable, but also provides a constructive environment for all employees to grow. 

Before we go any further, let’s take a look at the different groups we see in the contemporary workplace. The Baby Boomers represent the generation born in the immediate years after World War II. They tend to exude the optimism and stability, characteristic of the post-World War II period. Generation X come immediately after – born between the early 1960s and early 1980s, this generation has been able to adapt to socioeconomic changes, but cynicism comes easy to them. 

Generation Y, also known as Millennials, are those born between 1980 and 2000. This generation has been shaped by technology and are often perceived as independent thinkers. Research has shown that by 2025, 75 per cent of the global workforce will consist of millennials. Generation Z comprises those born after 1995. This generation has been raised in a world of high-speed internet and is often perceived to be smarter in the way they often self-educate themselves using social media channels and are driven to change the world.   

To be able to make most of the high levels of creativity and innovation that a diverse workforce has to offer, employers need to focus on understanding the mind-set of their employees. One of our priorities this year has been coaching leaders and senior managements on how to manage millennials, or Gen Y employees. Why? Let me explain. According to research by Deloitte, millennials currently form 35 per cent of the UK workforce – in most companies, 40 to 50 per cent of employees are millennials. The number is only likely to increase. 

Yet, employers usually perceive Gen Y staff as walking in the door with sky high expectations and little experience, and think they know more than they do. Employers who want to successfully manage a diverse workplace, often fail to understand different generations’ thought-processes, their goals and most importantly, how their contribution can give your organisation an added advantage. Here are some key takeaways to help you get the best out of your Gen Y staff: 

Fear of embracing change may threaten your ability to see the potential in your staff. Think about your own – conscious or subconscious – prejudices against the different groups. Do you find yourself unable to trust staff simply based on their age or the tendency to experiment? Thanks to their parents’ investment in their education, Gen Y employees are often smart, resourceful, talented, and of course, educated. Yes, they might be hungry for knowledge and might want to get on fast, but that is not necessarily a negative trait – think about how this dynamic attitude can help boost your team morale or secure new business opportunities. 

Avoid generalisations
Understand what motivates individual employees. They are not all the same and have different aspirations. Research has shown that there is a strong disconnect between what young employees want from their careers and what employers often believe they want. For instance, a recent study showed that according to employers, wanting to be a manager and leading their own team is a key motivator for millennials. However, the employee side of the research demonstrated that having a work-life balance and a sense of fulfilment at work was a crucial long-term motivational factor for Gen Y employees. Therefore, identify what is unique about your team members and why they are attracted to your sector. Aligning your business objectives to their career goals is then likely to become a lot easier.

Be open and transparent
This does not mean revealing confidential information where doing so is unnecessary. However, it does mean being ready to provide a rationale for why you are asking for a task to be done, or why you do not see something the way your Gen Y colleague sees it. Gen Y employees respond best in an open environment, where questions can be asked freely and social barriers are limited.

Encourage collaboration 
With multigenerational workforces increasingly becoming a reality for businesses in the UK and globally, it is essential to move towards a collaborative system of working. Millennials work best in teams and like to bounce off ideas – sometimes without thinking them through, mainly because they tend to have high self-confidence and are not afraid of putting forward a less than perfect suggestion. If teamwork is attractive to them, then place them in functional teams where they can interact with their colleagues on a regular basis.

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