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Are You Ready for the Five Generation Workforce?

Posted by: ADP on 27 October 2015 in Human Capital Management

For the first time in history, five generations of employees will soon be working side by side. As more baby boomers are working past retirement age and millennials gradually enter the workforce, the clear differences in the working styles and values of each generation are becoming more pronounced. Even though diversity in the workplace can be a real competitive advantage, HR professionals are now faced with a new human capital management challenge. How can organisations adapt to the fusion of different age groups and accommodate their evolving needs and expectations?

How common is generational conflict?

Our new report, The Workforce View in Europe, suggests that the demographic change is truly disrupting the workplace. Fueled by the aging population in Europe, a staggering 67% of employees say that they are encountering intergenerational conflict at work. However, there are some clear international and cultural differences, and the issue are particularly prominent in Italy (77%), Spain and Poland (73%). It seems that generational differences are apparent in today’s world of work, but what exactly causes conflict?

  1. Different working styles

A key issue for multi-generational organisation is the differing working styles of each age group. Stereotypically, Baby Boomers have been more process-oriented, while Millennials want to more freedom over their working pattern. Indeed, one in five employees say that the main cause of conflict is different age groups’ views on how things should be done. For example, while younger workers see flexible working opportunities as an important factor influencing their engagement, older workers don’t always see the potential benefits and value time spent in the traditional office environment.

  1. Changing values

In addition to work preferences, different principles and attitudes toward organisational change are also on the table. Interestingly, 17% of workers identify differing values and approaches to corporate responsibility as major cause of conflict, which may point towards an emerging “value revolution” in the workplace. 16% of younger employees also feel that older management is out of touch with modern trends, while 15% say that older workers are resistant to change. Even though different age groups may have a biased view of their colleagues, leadership should acknowledge the differences and work to employ different management styles to complement each generation.

  1. Climbing the promotional ladder

As older workers retire later than ever, other employees feel there is less room for new talent (18%). This is a particular concern in Italy, where a quarter of employees feel stagnated by a lack of promotional prospects. In order to address any negative effects on career development, organisations should look to refresh their human capital management policies so that they enable each generation grow and prosper in their roles.

Despite conflict, older employees have confidence in their younger colleagues’ ability to succeed in the working world. A staggering 92% of European workers feel that millennials have both the skills and abilities necessary to thrive. All generations also acknowledge the value of experience and, in fact, 39% of employees feel anxious about losing talent and knowledge as older workers retire. Nevertheless, only one in ten businesses plan to employ retired employees as consultants.

How HR can bridge the generation gap

It is evident that the demographic change is going to impact the modern working world in a number of ways. Unhealthy stereotypes can cause conflict and disrespect, and organisations must consider how they can prevent intergenerational issues from damaging employee engagement, happiness and retention.

HR plays an important role in facilitating conversations between generations and showing them that it is not a ‘you against me’ situation. Each generation has its strengths, merits and weaknesses, which teams should learn to embrace. It’s important to understand different working styles and each generation’s qualities, while catering to their specific needs. When organisations execute multi-generational HR strategies effectively, they can proactively manage the demographic shift and maximise the benefits of a diverse workforce.

For more insights into how the workplace is changing, read our latest white paper, The Workforce View in Europe.

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TAGS: Employee engagement Human Capital management Human resources Thought leadership

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