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Multigenerational workforces show good work is ageless

Arda Atalay

Published: Updated:

We are seeing today, for the first time, a workforce made up of four different generations – the Baby Boomers, Gen X, the Millennials, and Gen Z. With longer life spans and Gen Zs taking their first steps into the job market, many organizations today face an intricate challenge of managing this multigenerational workforce. In the coming years, organizations will work with teams of people from four to five different generations at any point in time.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent globally that organizations need to learn more about a multigenerational workforce and how to manage it. For starters, there is the diversity of perspectives: it shouldn’t be surprising that a 60-year-old employee will have different priorities, concerns, values, and even sometimes qualities than their 25-year-old co-worker. The key to harmonizing this is to focus on the commonalities and embrace the differences. If there is anything to be learned from the last few years, it is that diverse teams win.

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A recent survey by LinkedIn, which collated results from over 7,000 talent professionals across 35 countries along with behavioral data, offers recommendations that can help companies with age-diverse teams understand their talent better and celebrate everyone’s strengths. The survey shows that young, old, and everyone in between can help prove that good work is ageless.

As per the survey, 89 percent of HR and talent professionals agreed that a multigenerational workforce makes a company more successful. The more age groups a company has, the bigger its skills pool is. For example, while Gen Z has a larger share of people with Python programming skills than any other generation, those who are older tend to have stronger and more mature business and sales skills.

Looking at the UAE, the trend for certain age groups to take up specific professions is striking– with Gen Z far ahead in communications skills [15 percent]; Millennials in digital transformation [54 percent]; while Gen X are still among the sought-after for business analysis and consulting [40 percent] and project, program management [54 percent] roles.

Organizations that recognize, and harness the heterogeneity of the ageing workforce stand to benefit the most. (File photo: AFP)
Organizations that recognize, and harness the heterogeneity of the ageing workforce stand to benefit the most. (File photo: AFP)

In other words, while companies need skillsets, they also look for seasoned mid-career professionals to maintain institutional knowledge and step into leadership positions.

Another interesting trend on the rise, further accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is that more companies are choosing to use contract labor or ‘gig economy’ workers to respond to fast-changing business conditions. This is amply demonstrated in the survey, which shows that many Gen Z workers are students, and they are 135 percent more likely than Baby Boomers to be in a part-time or a contract role.

Companies that truly invest in multigenerational teams will be best positioned to emerge as innovators and business leaders in the future. By looking at diverse age groups as an opportunity, organizations can shift focus to creating a happier, healthier and a more productive work experience.

Organizations that recognize — and harness — the heterogeneity of the ageing workforce stand to benefit the most.

To capitalize on a multigenerational workforce, it’s important to treat each person as a unique individual who may or may not fit into their generation’s ethos.

Older workers typically call upon decades of experience to make more methodical and careful decisions, but the 60-something member of your team could easily be your fastest and most creative thinker.

Making people feel part of something valuable regardless of their age, rank, or span of control is vital, particularly when social media has heightened the pressure for everyone to be a superstar.

People tend to gravitate toward others in their own demographic. It doesn’t hurt to remind folks to seek out conversations with people who are older or younger than them at conferences, networking events, or even just sitting in the cafeteria or on the train.

It’s not unusual or unfounded for senior employees, scarred by downsizing and outsourcing, to feel threatened by the younger generations. Younger workers may feel insecure about sharing advice with more experienced colleagues. Often the response is to hoard knowledge instead of sharing it. It’s important to create a safe environment for everyone to spread key learnings.

Organizations that incorporate teams of people from different generations into their operations will enhance their ability to grow and benefit from future changing business dynamics.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.