Nurturing a multi-generational workforce | NTT DATA

Fri, 14 May 2021

Nurturing a multi-generational workforce

For the first time ever, five generations are working side-by-side in the workplace

Age is a crucial part of a diversity and inclusion strategy. For the first time ever, five generations are working side-by-side in the workplace, with employees ranging in age from 18 to 80 and millennials making up most of the workforce. Acknowledging that generational differences exist can support employers in recognising the value that comes from diversity, and ultimately, build a happier and more engaged workforce. The World Economic Forum’s Multi-Generational Workplace Study 2020 found that investing in multi-generational workforces will improve the efficiency, productivity and profitability of the economy so much that it would raise GDP per capita by almost 19 percent in the next three decades.

The Employee Experience

For many years, businesses have considered the customer experience incredibly important for their business strategy. Providing customers with a better experience than that of a competitor will build a happier and ultimately more loyal customer – fundamental to business success.

Whilst investment in customers remains a critical part of business-as-usual, there is a growing understanding that improving employee experience is just as important in building a successful, thriving organisation. As business leaders, we are under more pressure than ever to not only support and develop our staff, but to keep them. The battle for talent continues to rage and an enhanced experience for your employees could be the missing piece of the puzzle. There is an abundance of research demonstrating the benefits of engaged staff who are satisfied with their job, with positive implications both for increased staff retention rates and a higher level of service provided to customers.

Employers need to grasp a better understanding of what different age groups expect from them to create the most productive and engaged multigenerational workforce. Below are four steps you can take to begin to integrate age into your diversity and inclusion strategy.

1. Apply market segmentation strategies

In the consumer world, age is an important tool for market segmentation as customer preferences evolve as people get older. Businesses use market segmentation to divide the population into groups based on key characteristics and build a better picture of each groups’ specific needs and wants. Carrying out this process helps businesses to target the unique expectations of each age group and keep them happy.

Age can also be a useful segmentation tool to better understand the needs and expectations of your employees across multiple generations. Business leaders should adopt the learnings from customer segmentation to get a better understanding of how their staff are different and what their expectations and outlooks are on life. Regardless of age, companies hire employees that possess similar core values. Recognising that the way they express these values may differ will allow you to manage their experience in a way that is better for them.

According to a Randstad survey, 80 percent of people believe that the biggest difference within a multi-generational workforce is the style of communication. It’s the responsibility of the employer to successfully communicate and engage with their employees. Getting to grips with how different features of communication vary across generations will help create a communication strategy that resonates across different age groups; reshaping style, language, or method (some may prefer text message, others may prefer a face to face meeting) to suit.

2. Build an experience that works for everyone

Following segmentation, businesses can either create highly differentiated experiences for each generation or build one experience for their core age group which is also appropriate for others. Examples of this in practice can be seen in American Express and Tesco. American Express created different coloured bank cards each with unique features for customers. Tesco focused on providing a positive experience for young mums by providing wider aisles, big toilets with changing rooms and lots of parking for people with pushchairs.

Recognising the importance of all age groups is important here, as it will allow you to ensure that your employee experience supports all age groups appropriately. Although many believe that employee expectations have grown with the influx of millennials in the workplace, it is in fact more of a reflection of a growing consensus on workplace needs in the wider population. According to a recent McKinsey report, employers that don’t have a flexible working policy will lose staff. These modern aspects of working life such as flexible working that were once only demanded by the minority are now becoming a ‘must-have’ for the majority. As millennials are now the largest part of the workforce, employers could opt to create an employee experience based on millennial generational needs and expectations. This could involve changes such as introducing access to gyms, providing up-to-date software and having flexible working practices – all factors that are most popular among people aged 21-30 but still attractive to the UK workforce at large.

In the future, this will become much easier as people are becoming more closely aligned on what they expect from employers. Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends Survey asked people what they perceive to be the biggest difference across generations. While the differences across generations were interesting, the most intriguing thing in the report was the strong expectation that these difference would be less in three years’ time, across every metric.

3. Implement reverse mentoring

Different generations have different skill sets and reverse mentoring is a fantastic way to get the most out of multi-generational employee skills. For example, Millennials and Gen Z are generally faster at understanding and using technology while Gen X and Baby Boomers normally bring experience and a long-instilled work ethic. Mentoring across generations can encourage employees to learn and share these qualities, paving the way for a well-rounded workforce. Reverse mentoring can also provide more experienced members of the team with the opportunity to learn from younger employees, boosting productivity through intergenerational learning and collaboration.

Reverse mentoring also brings an educational element of dealing with unconscious bias. There are stereotypical views of younger generations within older generations and vice versa. Younger generations stereotypically like to challenge how things have always been done. Older generations may see this as negative, when in fact, being agile and adaptable is a powerful asset for a business. Reverse mentoring in this case will help both sides to understand the experiences of the other and help to build trust between age groups.

For business leaders, it is important to recognise that younger generations reflect the changing world. Embracing these changes will prove its value in the long run, building a workforce more representative of the communities they serve – ready to connect with the everchanging demands of younger consumers.

4. Recognise that age is just another facet of diversity

The underlying theme here is that recognising the value of diversity can only be a good thing for the world, and age is merely another dimension to that. As discussed in previous blog posts, having a diverse workforce, whether that be in terms of gender, race, age, religion or sexuality, brings greater business success and is the right thing to do on a moral level.

At NTT DATA, we have made a conscious effort in recent months to recruit younger employees to focus on balancing out the age groups within our workforce. In line with this, we have begun to make some changes to ensure that we are supporting our team effectively. We have moved from an email-based communication system to a multi-channel communication system, we have made sure that our flexible working policy is aligned with our values, and we have fostered a culture of the ‘boomerang employee’ which allows employees to leave NTT DATA UK and come back in line with changing views on employee loyalty. Of course, there is much more to be done, but we are making sure that we are putting processes in place to address the needs of our staff.

Over to you

The onus is now on business leaders to provide flexibility and promote a positive work/life balance. As a result, the world of work is becoming much more accessible and supportive than ever before. More mothers are able to return to work, leaders are taking responsibility for the wellbeing of their staff and businesses are acting on issues of public interest like mental health, sustainability and diversity and inclusion. These are steps in the right direction for all generations and will ensure that businesses contribute to a fairer, more inclusive world for all.

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