One of the lasting effects of the pandemic in the corporate world was the evolution of a permanent hybrid working model from what at the beginning, was considered a temporary shift to remote working. This has also resulted in a paradigm shift in employee focus from tradition and structure to freedom and lifestyle.
Managing a multi-generational workforce which is increasingly diverse in age has always been a challenge, and the same has been further compounded by the hybrid model of work. Balancing the needs of remote, in-office and hybrid workers, while working towards achieving the company’s goals, requires both business and HR leaders to focus on the big picture while also acknowledging and addressing the nuances in each group’s demands and desires.
However, recent studies have also shown that the top drivers of engagement across all the segments are compensation, learning and development and work-life balance, the last one becoming more prominent in the last year and a half. The major differences between them are usually in the areas of learning and acquiring skills, adaptability to change and collaboration with others. These are mostly to do with the differences in their professional and personal needs depending on which stage of the employee life cycle they are in.
Managing age and generational diversity should be a robust part of any D&I strategy. Here are some measures that companies can implement to succeed with a multi-generational workforce in the hybrid era.
Breaking down stereotypes
Did you know Morgan Freeman got his big break at 52?
We are often guilty of stereotyping people. As per research, our brains tend to automatically lean on stereotypes to make faster decisions. While it’s good to consider generational differences in the workplace when attracting, hiring, engaging, and retaining employees, leaders must understand that solely relying on stereotypes is not helpful. In a hybrid model where business outcome is the only measurement for success there is no other recipe for effectiveness based on any other criteria. Having an inclusive, collaborative culture and focusing efforts on improving every employee’s experience helps in ensuring success while creating an environment of equal opportunities.
A transparent culture
Even though transparency may not be a vocally expressed topic among the older generations, Gen Y and Gen Z employees which now constitute most of the workforce expect full transparency from their employers. When employees trust each other and their managers they work in a more collaborative way, will be better engaged in their roles, and work towards the common goal of achieving the organizational objectives. Multiple studies in this field have indicated that transparency is one of the major factors that help increase workplace happiness, which in turn helps in producing new and innovative ideas.
Communication and immersive learning are the key
Communication style is the biggest differentiator among a multi-generational workforce. Each generation speaks its own ‘language’, responds differently to tone, type of content, medium and communication style. Getting the message across, reaching every employee, and gaining their attention requires a deep understanding of the workforce. Catering to the different generational outlooks using new methods of communication has only helped both employees and employers across all segments. The concept of learning and development is another major differentiator among the multi-generational workforce. Apart from the traditional methodologies used in organizations, hyper-personalization of learning made accessible to the Gen X and Gen Z at their own pace using different platforms based on their professional needs using immersive learning methods would enhance their learning experience and help them learn new skills.
Digital Employee Experience
The way employees access information in the workplace and perform their tasks has changed significantly over the past few years. Organizations with multigenerational workforces have started to realize the importance of implementing mobile-friendly tools and technologies to drive productivity and enable interpersonal communication in the workplace. Millennials who form the largest segment in the working community and are projected to represent 75% of the global workforce by 2025 grew up in the technological age are always connected through their smartphones. This is a generation that wants their organization’s tech stack to work on cloud and be highly integrated. Instead of multiple communication channels, many organizations are looking to consolidate all of these on a single platform to provide an integrated digital experience.
Driven by a sense of purpose
The current generation of employees who are joining the workforce are outspoken and do not hesitate to share their feedback on all issues. Issues like diversity, climate change, gender equality and the likes do matter to them, and they expect their employers to provide equal opportunities, prioritize diversity and care for the planet. Channelizing their interests to unite the workforce towards a common sense of purpose can help organizations align employees to the organizational mission and vision. Creating open communication channels, providing the option to participate in important company conversations and decision making, creates a much stronger sense of purpose among employees which in turn results in higher employee engagement.
Data-driven approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Diversity of perspectives can always come from different channels, however, the best way to achieve it is by inclusion of different voices within the organization by providing them with the equity of a level playing field regardless of their differences. A data-driven strategy aids in examining an organization's current state and future direction to develop integrated DEI plans and become more sustainable. Surveys, focus group discussions and analysis of data trends will help understand the sentiments and ideas on how to bridge the gaps. Understanding the essential differences, components, and measurements that make up DEI is the first step toward improving it. Identifying the key areas of opportunity and applying them in the different stages of the employee life cycle is what will make the whole DEI exercise meaningful. For e.g., applying and reviewing equity in a performance review process.
Multigenerational workforces are not new, but the gaps between generations have never been so wide. However, each generation brings in their unique strengths to the workforce. As Sundar Pichai the CEO of Alphabet Inc said, “A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions and outcomes for everyone”. Businesses can unleash their competitive edge by bridging generational gaps to leverage the unique talents and perspectives of all generations.