Five ways to bridge a multi-generational workforce

To avoid organisational conflict, companies must be aware of the strengths and limitations each generation brings.

The author

Vincent Wong, Area Vice President, Sales & Services for Asia Region, Citrix

For the first time in history, due to people living and working longer, workforces can be comprised of up to five distinct generations, which can present a range of associated business challenges. Multi-generational workforces are increasingly becoming the norm in Singapore, so it is crucial that businesses adapt accordingly, or risk significant productivity, engagement and retention issues.

There is no doubt that the digital revolution has had a huge impact on how and where we work, with technological innovations creating new industries and business models. However, traditional working norms are evolving, with Generation Z, Millennials, Generation Y, Generation X and Baby Boomers possessing varying levels of digital literacy, interests and behavioural needs.

Each generation brings with it a unique skillset, leadership style, work-life balance perception and communication attitude shaped by historical events, economic conditions and popular culture. This diversity can be advantageous for companies, subsequently fostering creativity and expanding the approaches to problem-solving.  

However, this disparity can also create problems for C-suite and HR executives, as they struggle to create compelling and collaborative work environments that make all employees feel valued and treated fairly, regardless of their generation.

To avoid organisational conflict, employee turnover and a loss of productivity, companies must be aware of the strengths, values, motivations and limitations each generation brings to a workplace.

For example, Baby Boomers have amassed a wealth of industry knowledge, but having adapted to technology throughout their working lives, approach technology in an extremely different way to millennials, and other digital natives, that have never known work or in some cases everyday life without technology. This means companies have to consider a range of personal experiences, learning curves and adaptive approaches to introducing new workplace technology and related training.

Looking more in-depth at digital natives and Millennials, although they possess the tech-savvy skills that today's workforce requires, other factors start to come into play. For example, they often don’t want to conform to traditional employment arrangements such as one office location, favouring the ‘work anywhere’ mentality. They also favour solutions that are more collaborative, customisable and instant.

Then there is the post-Millennials generation, Gen Z. Born between 1997-2010, Gen Z now makes up 30% of Singapore’s resident population with a vast majority of them entering the workforce. Digitally savvy, Gen Zs are always connected. Employers hiring Gen Zs need to understand how devices play an important part of this generation’s life.

Ultimately, future-proofed workplaces must learn to ‘bridge this generational divide’ in order to tap into the vast opportunities this new development presents and combat the associated challenges.

There are various ways to boost staff engagement and productivity across the modern organisation:

1. Integrate technology and training

With intergenerational teams present in the workplace, each with their own respective skill sets and strengths, technology should be used to support productivity regardless of workstyle. To ensure all employees are able to fully maximise these technologies, companies should offer training sessions that appeal to all learning styles; face-to-face workshops, e-learning courses and even peer-to-peer mentoring programs.

2. Promote flexibility

Having a workplace and IT set up that accounts for, and promotes different working styles will enable businesses to get the most out of every employee, regardless of where and how they are working. Introducing flexibility in technology and working conditions will allow companies to create an inclusive workforce that is both productive and progressive.

3. Secure digital workspaces

With flexibility enabled, security must also be considered critical. Companies must enable their employees to securely access their apps, data and company networks with ease, while ensuring that company data is not comprised. Different generations, will take different approached to roadblocks imposed by companies.

4. Foster communication

Understanding the different working styles and what the new digital reality means to the different generations can help build respect and communication within teams. Hosting training and team building days which highlight generational styles can encourage greater levels of dialogue and disperse outdated stereotypes.

5. Optimise the work environment

Focusing on the future of work and adapting to the needs of different generations in the workforce, businesses must consider how to optimise the work environment. Businesses that take into consideration a secure digital workspace, geared to encourage productivity, regardless of location, device or network; in addition to a new view on the physical workplace, as a location for collaboration, brainstorming, co-working and team building. Changing the view on the physical office will also allow optimisation in terms of footprint and facilities cost, as we look at the future of work.

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