The multi-generational workforce challenge


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The dynamics of the workforce are ever-changing and as employers we find ourselves often needing to understand, engage with and manage a multitude of generations within our workforce.

Depending on the size of your company, it is possible you may have representation across four different generations within your workforce, and what works for one generation may simply not work for another. Each generation comes with its own intricacies and unique approach to work, and as employers, understanding these key drivers, motivations and strengths can help encourage a more engaged and harmonious work environment where each generation’s strengths are recognised and worked to.

You may well have found yourself with staff from the Silent Generation (although most will be well into retirement age), Baby Boomers, Generation-X, Millennials and now, Generation-Z and Generation Alpha.

But what are the general differences between them and how can business owners best utilise their strengths?

Here’s a snapshot of the generations that you are likely to encounter within your workforce and some of the traits that each are renowned for.

Firstly, we have “Baby Boomers”, known for their strong work ethic and dedication. They bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team, along with strong networking, mentoring, and problem-solving skills.

Next is “Generation-X”, an independent and self-reliant generation who are adaptable and resourceful; again they have strong problem-solving skills, are comfortable with technology and value a good work-life balance.

The “Millennials/Generation-Y” need no introduction. This generation is tech-savvy and adaptable to new technologies. They are capable multi-taskers, collaborative and team oriented. Also of note is their entrepreneurial mind-set. Gen-Y embrace diversity and inclusion.

“Generation-Z” are technologically fluent and are quick learners, usually incredibly comfortable with digital communication. They are creative and innovative thinkers and highly value work-life balance. Importantly – and as employers we are seeing this come through strongly – they seek meaningful and purpose-driven work.

The latest generation, “Alpha”, are a little young to be in the workforce yet – but get ready as they are coming. This will be a technology driven generation. At a young age they have already seen massive changes in society – it will be interesting to see the traits that Alpha’s will bring to the workforce.

How do you manage the different generations to create a cohesive, stable, respectful and engaged workforce that caters to each generation’s needs?

Baby Boomers will often tell you that “culture” within the company is of little importance to them, but then Gen Z and Millennials will generally tell you that it is one of the most important things and can often determine whether they will stay with the company or not.

As a Gen X’er, I find myself right in the middle of this generation range, not afraid of hard work, but still able to adapt to change and embrace new technology.
But for someone older, it can be intimidating coming face-to-face with so much change.

One thing this blending of generations has shown us is that we have much to learn from each other. Each generation has unique experience, skills and perspectives to bring to the table, as long as we are open to learning.

While it can be challenging to manage a workforce with multiple generations, if we understand and appreciate the unique qualities and strengths of each, we can create a cohesive, stable and respectful workplace for everyone. Each brings with them valuable perspectives, experience, and skills.

By embracing these differences and creating a workforce that values diversity, businesses can leverage the collective strengths of a multi-generational workforce to create a strong, harmonious environment for their staff.

Related: Careful recruitment is essential

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Kellie Hamlett
Kellie Hamlett
Director, Recruitment & HR Specialist, Talent ID Recruitment Ltd. She can be contacted on kellie@talentid.co.nz or 027 227 7736. Talent ID are Recruitment Specialists and can support you through your recruitment process.

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