The multi-generational workforce is a norm in today’s workplaces. For many years, organizations have been working to address varied employee needs at different career/life stages and facilitate interaction and teamwork between different age groups.
While some of these efforts work, others do not seem to create the desired synergy and social capital between employees that form the foundation of authentic care, collaboration and communication, and which enable them to thrive at work.
According to Josh Bersin, diversity is a strategy; inclusion is a goal; belonging is a feeling.1 He says that at work, a sense of “not being included” can be deadly. When people feel left out of meetings, don’t have input on their work assignments, or sense that they have been excluded from decisions or opportunities, they feel stress, anger, mistrust, and anxiety.
To create a great place to work For All™, regardless of age, the first step is to identify opportunity areas in their day-to-day workplace experiences. Beyond their perceptions of the company’s policies, programs and practices, find out whether employees have consistently positive experiences in their relationships with leaders, their job and their colleagues. Where there are age differences in workplace experiences, address the drivers of these inconsistent and negative experiences.
Secondly, cultivate a psychologically safe space for employees to share their ideas and opinions, and ask questions without fear of being rejected or embarrassed. Be mindful of unconscious stereotypes and age-bias which shape day-to-day interactions and decision making, and avoid language which reinforces stereotypes and creates a divisive “us” vs “them” mentality, e.g. “Ok Boomer”, “(that generation) is always ‘like that’”, etc. While many companies recognize that diversity is beneficial to the business, not many are aware that psychological safety may hold the key to unlocking the benefits of diversity.2
Thirdly, build leadership capability to role model inclusive behaviors, facilitate collaboration and foster teamwork between employees. This refers to leadership at all levels, particularly the frontline managers. Their daily interactions, decisions and behaviors make the difference between an employee having a great day at work, or not. They are responsible for cascading the workplace culture, live out corporate values, and are the linchpin for the success or failure of company initiatives being implemented. Telling frontline managers to “be fair and inclusive” and “avoid stereotyping” does not mean that they will automatically possess the knowledge and skills to translate these instructions into practice.
As companies transition into a post-pandemic hybrid workplace, employee engagement and a sense of unity toward a common purpose are more critical than ever. Adopting an inclusive and holistic approach to creating a great workplace for their multi-generational workforce will enable them to harness all the benefits that age-diversity brings.
Want to find out how your multi-generational workforce is experiencing the workplace? Visit https://greatplacetowork.com.sg/employee-surveys/ to find out how.
*This article first appeared in SPAG Asia’s 2022 Annual Report: https://www.spag.asia/pdf/SPAG-Annual-Outlook-Report-2022.pdf
- Why Belonging Is Such A Big Issue In Business Today by Josh Bersin. Published August 31, 2020 and updated September 7, 2020.
- Research: To Excel, Diverse Teams Need Psychological Safety by Henrik Bresman and Amy C. Edmondson. Published on March 17 2022, Harvard Business Publishing.
Pamela is the thinker when it comes to research reports and trends as she makes sense of what it means. She has over two decades of consulting and policy experience helping organizations in their journey to become fair and progressive employers. She believes that every organization has the potential to be a great workplace, and works with data to distil insights and develop resources to help them. When Pamela puts on her hat in content development, research and recognition, she works with organizations to improve their workplace practices and create an inclusive environment for their employees. When she’s not burrowing down the rabbit hole of numbers and words, she’s immersed in a new Netflix series or catching up with friends over a good meal and drinks.