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Friday, 27 January 2023 14:12

The Workplace Generation Gap

Immediately following the Covid pandemic we saw a trend whereby many employees of a certain age elected to quit their jobs and remove themselves from the available workforce. The stresses of the pandemic, including the loss of loved ones, brought about a re-evaluation of life goals. Opportunities to retire early were eagerly taken.

More recently, the cost of living crisis has forced some of these early retirees to re-join the workforce, and compelled others to recognise that they will probably have to stay in work for longer than they may have originally planned. Despite this, the number of vacancies in the UK remains high. Indeed, just this morning, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt strongly hinted at financial incentives to encourage people to re-join the workforce.

In the meantime, we have noticed that employers have diluted their recruitment standards in order to fill posts.

One consequence of the current labour market is that the age range amongst workers in some organisations has broadened, and we can sometimes see as many as five generations in a single workplace.

Whilst we promote and applaud diversity in the workplace, managing a workforce that spans a wide age range and encompasses differing sets of principles and beliefs, can present a number of challenges. Attitudes towards authority, work ethic and privacy can become catalysts for friction. For example, something that was acceptable to say in the workplace 40 years ago that might have been considered simply as banter back then, would not be appropriate today and may indeed be considered offensive.

In recent years, terms such as Baby Boomers, Millennials and Generations X and Z have entered the lexicon. The media and some HR commentators have been quick to adopt these phrases as a way of pigeon-holing individuals into certain behavioural types, dependant solely on the years of their birth.

We are less keen to employ such labels.

They do not take into account people’s life choices; when they start a family for example. Nor do they account for education or affluence. Wealthier individuals are proven to have had better and earlier access to technology and therefor the Internet; one of the prime markers for identifying Generation Z. There is also no overlap. The generation labels are strictly aligned with specific years of birth, whereas in reality there are likely to be transitional periods.

Furthermore, using such generational terminology creates a pathway for derogatory and ultimately discriminatory terms. “Boomer” has become a word of disrespect, criticizing someone’s age and perceived lack of digital awareness.

Generational diversity then, deserves as much attention as race or gender diversity. Furthermore, in addition to awareness surrounding age discrimination, managers need to employ plain and comprehensive communications practices to ensure that all employees are receiving the same messages and instructions and that no group or individual feels isolated or treated differently.

Diversity of all kinds is good for businesses so it's important that employers embrace generational diversity whilst maintaining their employees’ dignity at work and safeguarding their wellbeing.

Ask us about our Dignity at Work training, as well as our Effective Communication workshop. Contact us on 01452 331331, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  

Read 890 times Last modified on Friday, 27 January 2023 14:28

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