Dr Who fans know too well that a ride in the Tardis can hurtle its occupants into the future – an unknown, unexplored environment full of risks, challenges and opportunities. At a recent AMCHAM event, Sageco – a RiseSmart company’s National Director Alison Monroe asked attendees to step into the Tardis to explore what an award winning multi-generational workplace would look like.
Lively table group discussions produced a compelling picture of a workplace that would bring out the best in all generations – with a particular emphasis on what would be different for employees in late-career. Below is the output – a list of seven characteristics, ideas, principles or examples of what a positive and productive multi-generational workplace might include.
1 Multi-generational flexibility…
rated highly. But flexibility means different things to people of different ages and stages. Flexible work conditions tailored to an individual’s own caring needs for family and dependants – from grandchild care through to elder care, and everything in between. It could also simply mean later start times, earlier finish times or working from home for whatever individual needs there are. The rise of automation, and what impact it will have on the nature of roles not previously so flexible, is something to consider. For example, could train drivers work remotely from anywhere, driving trains through the vast countryside, all from the technology powered office just five minutes from home?
2 Role mobility and rotational assignments…
are a way of developing skills and sharing knowledge. It promotes a growth mindset and any stage of an individual’s career with continuous learning and options to move into roles with more flexible conditions or less physical intensity. Likewise, the opportunity for internships at all career stages and reverse mentorship programs can generate knowledge exchange, new career paths and skill retention.
3 Finding purpose and meaning…
within and beyond your everyday role. Each individual can dedicate a certain percentage of their work week to spend time on projects and causes that inspire them (and still get their day job done!) In turn, this develops motivation and expands the collective experience of the workplace.
4 Workplace well-being…
programs which provide a personal well-being strategic coach who helps with nutrition, sleep, mental well-being and nutrition strategies. This could also include a sleep or nap zone, onsite assistance with everyday life – perhaps a barber, somewhere to do a load of laundry, an onsite nurse, a place for children or the elderly to come to work and hang out for the day. And maybe even bring a pet to work.
5 Life-long training and career planning support…
is easily available for each individual. Virtual career coaching is offered on an ongoing basis to empower each individual to manage their own career. Sharing the career stories of late-career employees including a photo gallery depicting their younger years and their key achievements.
6 Keeping connected…
by nominating a day where everyone who works from home comes into the office for lunch. Host networking events – someone even suggested a speed dating event for the over 50s!
is the key to such a high functioning multi-generational workplace. Equality, respect and inclusion must be led from the top.
Would you want to work in a workplace like this? I anticipate a high percentage of head nodding.
Risks and priorities
When asked what the risks of not actively pursuing a multi-generational workforce, the responses painted a grim picture of knowledge loss, a rise of absenteeism and sick leave, productivity decline, a talent shortage, a loss of subject matter expertise, lost customer relationships and a wider social cost.
To counteract the risks and create a multi-generational workforce requires prioritising executive advocacy and buy-in. People leaders need to be educated and develop the capability of having powerful conversations that aren’t ageist. It’s important to ask employees at each age and stage what is important to them and challenge our biases when recruiting.
Having had a futuristic glimpse of an award winning multi-generational workforce through a brief flit in our virtual Tardis, workshop participants were inspired to take action – on a personal and organisational level. Here are some examples:
- Develop my own career plan and get financial advice
- Challenge my assumptions about what the future workplace is – it could be so different
- Get the communication right to engage employees at all ages and stage
- Incorporate 100-year-life thinking into my personal plan
- Think about reflecting our customer base when balancing our teams and recruiting
- Challenge age bias when recruiting to ensure we get the full range of talent available
- Have more conversations and ask employees what support they need in late career and how they might like to work differently
- Look at flexible options for roles and focus on the outcomes, not the hours of work
- Ensure our executive strategy and age management plan identifies KPIs and a return on investment
What actions might you take to begin building an award winning multi-generational workforce? Here’s the tip, you won’t need the Timelord super powers of Dr Who to get there. In Sageco’s extensive experience with hundreds of organisations, we have seen HR and business leaders make significant inroads towards a truly intergenerational workplace. We would love to help you do the same. Let’s talk.
Five resources to inspire you further
- AEGON research – Retirement readiness survey
- What’s age got to do with it? Per-Capita research paper by Professor Philip Taylor and Warwick Smith
- Talkin’ about my inter-generation – LinkedIn