The age of inclusion: Embracing a multi-generational workforce

For perhaps the first time in history, today’s dynamic workforce is experiencing a unique phenomenon — five generations working side by side. It’s a huge win for diversity, but as businesses are now catering to employees whose cultural touchstones range from the age of Atari to the era of Amazon, it also brings complex challenges in attracting and retaining talent.

The recent World Employment Confederation research into the “work we want” highlighted how business leaders are finding talent management more difficult that ever. When it comes to different generations, it’s easy to make assumptions based on stereotypes — tech-phobic boomers, TikTok-obsessed Gen Zers and so on. However, in a global talent crunch when we have around 8.7 million people economically inactive across the UK, a far better approach is to be cognizant and appreciative of the unique strengths, perspectives and experiences each generation can bring to the workplace.

Values and Vision

So, how can employers take advantage of this broad talent pool to address the UK’s skills gap and also meet the needs of these cohorts effectively and affordably? A starting point is, of course, the right financial compensation, with pay and benefits packages that appeal to everyone from graduates to grandparents.

However, along with salaries, autonomy and flexibility in when and where people work are universally valued. In addition, LinkedIn data shows young workers prioritize career advancement, skills development and corporate purpose; Gen Z in particular want their jobs to drive social change and align with their ethics.

On the other hand, senior staff look for stability and age-inclusive workplaces, with solid pensions and regular health checks. Phased retirement plans, which let staff gradually reduce their working hours while passing on their expertise, are becoming increasingly popular.

Mid-lifers, especially women over 50, are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce. Often balancing care for parents, young children and teenagers, they need practical support to thrive both personally and professionally. Useful benefits include menopause policies, mental health support and career sabbaticals.

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Upskilling, Reskilling and a Love of Learning

With working lives stretching over 50 years, companies also need to consider professional development plans that support employees throughout their careers. It’s one of the reasons why Adecco, as a talent advisory partner, has moved focus from employment to employability.

Lifelong learning programs — such as on-the-job training and mentorships — are well-established routes to keep skills sharp and boost staff retention. But they can also be tailored to foster intergenerational connections via reverse mentorships (when younger employees to mentor senior colleagues) or intergenerational employee resource groups, for example.

In fact, providing opportunities for open and honest communication between different generations is key to breaking some of those stubborn stereotypes.

And while they do require focused thought and planning, the good news is that effective initiatives don’t always need to cost a lot of money. It’s most important to normalize an age-inclusive culture — whether that’s by showcasing success at any age or stage of life, intentionally creating age-diverse teams that combine different outlooks, approaches and experience levels, or simply encouraging conversations about working styles, schedules and tech preferences to find mutually beneficial compromises.

Harnessing Potential

From the AI revolution to the green transition to the well-documented talent scarcity situation, we’re at a point in time when businesses and our economy will genuinely benefit from an all-hands-on-deck approach to recruiting inclusively, so we’re fortunate that our candidate pool has never been richer or more diverse.

Key to breaking down any age-related barriers is to understand the motivations of each generation — whether that’s building the skills of education-levels or enticing returners back into the workplace — and take steps to proactively address their needs. When the UK sees a multi-generational workplace as the advantage it is, we’ll be in the best place to drive growth, solve skills shortages and reduce economic inactivity. And that will make the future work for everyone.

Niki Turner-Harding

Niki Turner-Harding
Niki Turner-Harding is country head, UK & Ireland, for Adecco.

Niki Turner-Harding

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