How to tackle multi-generations within the workplace

Old or young, we should all be flexible at work says breatheHR's Jonathan Richards.

Owning, running or managing a business is not something for the faint hearted. Especially for start-ups.

The pressure is on. Not only to make it through the early days, but also to make your company a success and make a splash in the industry. And it’s no easy task trying to juggle new business with client satisfaction, as well as managing the rest of the team and planning for the future. It can be easy to focus on the tasks that bring immediate gratification to the business – such as new wins – letting employee satisfaction potentially fall by the wayside. But it’s important to remember it’s the people who make your business what is it, the heart of the company, and the cogs that keep it going.

It’s a generational thing

We now, in 2017, have five generations in the workplace, as people are starting work earlier and retiring later. And with multi-generations in the workplace, comes a range of different priorities and a difference in what they want to get out of their job. Whilst there is an overlap of common goals between the generations, such as earning money and doing a good job to support the business, there is also a clear difference in what they value. Different age groups are at different stages of their life so naturally want different things out of their career and experience at work.

Previous research has revealed that younger generations want quick advancement, like-minded co-workers and fun from their job, whilst the older generations, put value on balance between hours at work and their personal lives as well as continuing to use their already formed skills.

The young ones

These values are reflected in research we conducted with Opinium earlier this year, with young people prioritising and valuing career growth and development. Over four-fifths of younger workers stated that appraisals are valuable and nearly half believe they are essential to have.

And it’s not just young employees who value personal development, business owners aged between 18 and 34 place employee satisfaction and appraisals in their top three business priorities over and above new business. This may well be down to the fact that younger employers have experienced being managed more recently and therefore realise how valuable a successful appraisal process can be to their career.

The more mature group

There is considerable difference when looking at the older generations. For instance, business owners aged over 55 were nearly four times as likely not to find appraisals valuable. This may be due to the traditional and rigid appraisal process that is still used widely in some companies. A process in which an employer and employee sit down and answer general questions about performance once a year. It is no surprise that employees in the older generations are the least likely to find their personal development productive (66 per cent) if they are only used to getting feedback once a year.  

A flexible approach

Business owners of all ages therefore need to be mindful of different generations and what they value. Harvard Business Review columnist, Bruce n. Pfau, argues that whilst it is easy to focus on the differences between age groups, they also have a lot in common. HR needs to be flexible, but it also needs to evolve in order to remain a positive force for change within a company. It’s crucial for business owners to keep employees engaged and motivated. And to swap a previous one-size-fits-all appraisal, which doesn’t really fit anyone, to a flexible one.

Find a process that works for your staff, whether that is a chat once a month or a more formal Q+A method every quarter. Whatever it may be, find a flexible way of working to fit around your employee’s preferences. This will keep your people engaged and happy within the workplace resulting in a more productive way of working.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of business running. But employee satisfaction shouldn’t be shoved to the bottom of your list. For younger employees especially, useful and regular feedback and a clear development plan is vital. They want to climb the ranks and further their career. And it’s your job to help them achieve this as ultimately, it is your employees who fuel the business. Don’t underestimate them.

Jonathan Richards, CEO and Founder of breatheHR.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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