Harnessing a Multigenerational workforce will become key – as people work longer due to improved health and increasing pension ages, (and shrinking pension pots), and younger people keep joining the workforce. This means we have, more than ever, a greater range of age groups working together. A child born in the west today has more than 50% chance of living to be at least 105 and a 20 year old a 50% chance to making it to at least 100. With such a huge mix of experience, attitudes and energy to draw upon at any time, this gives us a great opportunity to harness the experience of the more mature whilst maximising on the energies of the younger population and deliver great results. The challenge is to ensure different values and approaches are enabled to work productively together, and that companies support individuals to develop and grow throughout their now extended working life.
The make up of the workforce is changing. Boomers are declining representing now circa one quarter of working people whilst Generation X (born mid 1960s to early 1980s) are no longer the biggest part of our workforce – Millennials are and these were the first wave of digital natives to enter the workforce. This is a momentous shift. We are now seeing generation Z (born after 2000) enter the workforce too. But there is a belief that these ‘generations’ are less different than we may think. It is perhaps their age that may be more useful. For instance on average older people tend to be more conscientious modest, conventional, careful in interaction, sympathetic and helpful whilst younger people are more sociable, outgoing and keen on variety – regardless of generation. As we get older we tend to differ from our younger selves.
When older people look at todays youth its those younger selves they see. The values and mores of society will change across the years, but the underlying structure of human personality remains constant. Knowing its more about age than generation makes it much easier to see how people can work together productively. We are looking at life stage rather than generational theory. Some honest reflection on what we were like when we were younger, or where we might be heading when we get older might help us understand each other better.
In addition we are now looking at a new lifecycle. It is no longer about education, work, retirement. A model developed by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott in ‘The 100 year life’ suggests new and different stages including;
• Individual producer/ entrepreneurship
• Regular work / employment
• Portfolio work and retirement
For individuals it will be important to recognise when these transitions are coming and how to navigate them successfully. Understanding personality development through life is key to navigating the stages of the new working life – so it’s no coincidence that many execs’ seek coaching when they are reevaluating what stage they are in. Companies can retain talent by supporting their colleagues through each stage.