Michael A Potter
MAP International, Carrington, Manchester, United Kingdom, Website: www.map-int.com
Western countries, including UK, USA and Canada, have already focused research efforts on studying multi-generational diversity in organisations. They have categorised generations using a widely accepted practitioner classification based on birth years related to significant events in history in the western context. The categories so defined are: Veterans, born between 1925 and 1945; Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964; Gen X, born between 1965 and 1977; Gen Y born between 1978 and 1999; and Gen Z, born 2000 and after.
The Generational Gap
The entrance of generation Y and Z into the labour market has and will create a change not only in the age of the labour force, but also in values and preferences when it comes to career and working life. The millennial generations, Generation Y and Z, are able to integrate technology into every aspect of their work whereas older generations in general are not as familiar with technology which could lead to a generation gap. The lack of emerging technologies in the workplace and varying perspectives of different generations have led to a rift between employers and employees and managers are finding it hard to engage millennial generations who are mostly entry level employees leading to a high employee turnover in many organisations. Organisations need to learn how to actively engage the millennials while ensuring that the needs of the older generations are not neglected in the process.
Attracting and Retaining Generation Y and Z
According to the recent study conducted by PWC (2011) millennial generations want more work life balance options such as flexi-time. There is a strong emphasis on balanced work ethics; millennials have good educations thus they are demanding for more flexible work patterns. This leads to recruitment challenges of matching more home-oriented candidates with more firm-oriented work roles. Companies that consider the needs of this generation will be able to attract competent management and good employees and be able to retain them.
Millennial generations also want to work with companies that are well positioned globally, thus companies that concentrate on branding and corporate recognition through peer networks instead of traditional advertising, will be attractive to this age group.
To millennial generations, e-mail is a slow and inefficient tool that is used for communication at work. To attract generation Y and Z, organisations must learn how to adapt new ways to communicate and attract candidates. If organisations are not going social, they will not get the best talents. Building a community around your brand and its values will help to engage these new talents. Organisations should use YouTube, use humour, and go viral with their recruitment efforts.
To attract and retain Gen Y and Z management is expected to communicate with employees in a more relaxed environment through social media. Communication must be interactive and two-way. Companies that hope to be attractive employers may need to change their management and communication structures. Other management structures, such as the virtual office may flow more easily with new organisations rather than those already established. Social media is becoming a major part of the way candidates receive information, thus organisations need to take this seriously to be noticed by the new generations.
Corporate Social Responsibility will continue to be a major issue, with a lot more emphasis on CSR, and the eco-awareness that began in the late 1990’s. These generations are looking for a micro-level approach to a green workplace where they can actively contribute within the company. They desire an organised sense of belonging and inclusion – reflected in areas such as personalised workstations. One of the keys to being attractive to the millennial generations is to be a lifelong learner. The days of thinking “school is for learning and work is for working” are gone. Organisations can set their company apart from the competition by being at the top of hiring young talent before everyone else figures it out.
With nearly 8 million fans on Facebook, 291,000 followers on Twitter and a prolific output of videos on YouTube, the mobile telecoms group Nokia is a company that seems to know what makes Generation Y tick.
But the world’s largest maker of mobile phones doesn’t just use social media to promote its products. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are an important recruiting tool and a way for Nokia to identify its future employees. It has a Facebook group called Future Talent at Nokia (‘liked’ by 29,000 + people) where recruiters answer questions about working at the company, post information about job and internship opportunities and provide interview tips.
“We want to have a conversation with them,” says Matthew Hanwell, HR director, communities and social media at Nokia. “It’s not the usual post-and-pray approach to recruitment. This is much more about developing and evolving a relationship with people that ultimately could become an employment relationship.”
Nokia’s easy rapport with Generation Y – the brand-conscious, technologically-savvy and highly-networked generation of workers born in or after 1980 – is no accident. Since they entered the workforce, Nokia, which defines Generation Y as those born between 1978 and 2000, has paid more and more attention to them, says Hanwell. It has tried not only to understand what makes them different but also how they will shape their workplaces. Already, they make up between 30 and 40 percent of Nokia’s global workforce if factory workers are included, and the average age of the Finnish company’s employees is just under 33 years. “Over the last few years we have taken this topic very seriously and we have been actively researching and participating in research around Generation Y,” Hanwell says. “They are the future of the workforce of every company.”
Matthew Hanwell at Nokia encourages CFOs to follow his company’s example by having an open culture and engaging with their team. Nokia tries to create a “Generation Y-friendly environment,” he says, supporting things like flexible working and using social media tools within the company that allow employees to engage with senior executives. There is also an open door policy at Nokia and the CEO doesn’t have an office. The CEO at Nokia also ensures he is constantly in touch with employees through means such as social media forums.
In 2008, the company ran a reverse mentoring programme in its services unit, in which young engineers were paired with senior management and coached them on how to use social media platforms.
Future Challenges for HR in Managing a Multi-Generational Workplace
Despite the fact that organisations can identify means to manage multi generational environments, it is important to note some of the potential future challenges. One potential challenge may be the process of replacing the Baby Boomers. As the Baby Boomers approach retirement age, companies need to start thinking about their replacement. However, the number of millennial generations may not be sufficient to fill their shoes. Other possible challenges are the process of matching management styles to generational patterns and accommodating different generational needs. This may prove to be difficult and costly as there are several generations to satisfy, so organisations need to find a balance with regards to the leadership styles managers adopt. The different generations present in the workplace will most likely lead to some conflict between them, thus another future challenge for organisations may be managing cross-generational conflict. This may cost managers substantial time and effort that could have been put into productive work.
Potential Solutions to These Future Challenges
One of the most important things managers have to do is ensure that they are aware of the differences between generations. This can be a preventative method, because they can be proactive to prevent the possible challenges previously discussed from occurring. For example, the management styles in organisations can constantly be reviewed to ensure that the needs of the generations in the firm are always being met. It is also important that employees learn about differences present in the firm. This may make them more understanding about the challenges the organisation faces and may prevent future conflicts in the long run. Organisations should ensure that they have communication strategies such as open door policies in place. This will help employees feel comfortable about voicing any concerns they have and will mean that those concerns can be addressed faster. The organisation can also tailor things to suit individual employees, such as compensation packages and individual development plans. This will further ensure that all the needs of different employees are being met.
Key Learning Points
- In today’s day and age, if organisations want to remain competitive, they have to invest in their best asset – their talent.
- Different generations have different needs in the workplace and it is important that organisations continuously adapt to meet the changing needs of upcoming generations.
Useful Hints and Tips
- Try and ensure the needs of each generation present in your organisation are accommodated for. The needs of younger generations can be met through things like ensuring the company is up to date with technology and work practices such as flexi-time. The older generations can be trained on any new technology or work practice that is brought into the organisation to ensure that their needs are not sacrificed.
- Avoid traditional methods of advertising your firm and opt for more modern methods such as peer networks in order to successfully attract the newer generations.