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Creating an inclusive multi-generational workplace

Posted on 18/11/2021 by Diane Duberry

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In 2011, the law that allowed employers to force staff to retire at 65 was scrapped, now making it possible to have five generations in the workplace at one time. Many years ago, I worked in an organisation where staff ages ranged from 19 – 76.   At the time, I felt this was a harmonious workplace, but looking back, was the environment inclusive to all? Or was it more focused on the majority of staff – the 20 somethings? 

The challenges of a multi-generational workplace:

“Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”  - George Orwell

I was buying a card for my friend’s 50th birthday recently and so many cards contained a joke about how old someone was getting. So I was not surprised to read that,  according to ADP, Ageism is the most common form of discrimination in the workplace, with 8% of UK employees being discriminated against because of their age 

As well as harmful age-related banter, challenges of a multi-generational workplace include:

  • Not considering younger generations due to perceived lack of experience
  • Different life experiences
  • Pre-conceived ideas of colleagues in a different generation
  • Planning socials to suit all generations
  • Menopause
  • Feeling left out because you do / do not have children
  • Language / terminology used by different generations
  • Varied experience and knowledge of technology and social media platforms

So, with all these challenges, what are the advantages of having multi-generations in your workplace?

  • Multiple generations in the workplace can be a competitive advantage as you can appeal to a wider customer / client base
  • It creates opportunity for people to learn from each other
  • It promotes the sharing of best practices and different perspectives
  • Knowledge is passed on through generations, therefore retained for the future
  • Increases problem solving abilities
  • Opportunities for mentoring and reverse mentoring
  • Creates diversity of thought, which means more innovation in the workplace
  • It brings significant opportunities for leadership, learning and development
  • It builds a wider, more diverse talent pool

How can we create an inclusive, multi-generational workplace?

To create an inclusive, multi-generational workplace, it is important to understand the needs of each generation.  However, whilst a person may identify with one or two of the characteristics of their generation, everyone is an individual, so it is essential to establish what suits each employee. 

The five generations we may see in the workplace are:

  • The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (74-91 years old) – disciplined, value-oriented, and loyal 
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (55-73 years old) committed, self-sufficient, competitive
  • Generation X: Born 1965-1980 (39-54 years old) resourceful, logical, good problem-solvers
  • Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (23-38 years old) confident, curious, questioning authority
  • Generation Z: Born 1997-2012 (7-22 years old) ambitious, digital-natives, confident

One of the key differences to all these generations is how they communicate with each other. For example, whilst the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers had to rely on face-to-face relationships growing up, younger generations grew up with social media and could create online relationships. So, in the workplace, older colleagues may prefer to ask a message in person, whilst younger generations may prefer to send a message, which can cause frustrations.

Finding common ground

Despite our differences and regardless of which generation we find ourselves in, for the majority, we want a workplace where we:

  • Can share our values
  • Have a good work / life balance
  • Find leaders that are trustworthy and loyal
  • Have autonomy, freedom, and trust
  • Are respected and treated fairly and equally
  • Can learn, develop, advance, and receive feedback

Attracting candidates from multiple generations

To ensure all generations are attracted to your organisation, it is important to convey your message effectively:

  • Be mindful of common ground and communicate how your organisation meets these similar requirements
  • Ask colleagues in different generations to sense check job adverts and job descriptions to ensure they are not biased
  • Ensure your commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion is overt and evidenced on your website, job adverts etc
  • Advertise the role using a variety of channels, accessible to both desktop and mobile devices
  • Ensure your benefits package is flexible to meet the needs of staff at varying life stages
  • Be conscious and inclusive of different generations and lifestyles when organising social events and ensure your website contains the correct imagery around this
  • Offer flexible working options remembering that one size does not fit all
  • Offer personal development and growth opportunities at all levels, not just for entry level staff
  • Convey these messages across your job adverts, job descriptions etc so candidates in different generations know they are applying to an inclusive organisation

For further advice on how to attract multi-generations to your workplace, check out TPP’s diversity & inclusion hub for further resources and advice.