Addressing bias for a more multigenerational workforce

Employers need to do more to encourage multigenerational working, address bias and innovate to find ways to bring the generations together, a recent Talking Talent webinar heard.

Multigenerational Team


Stereotypes and bias across the different generations are unhelpful and need to be confronted, a recent Talking Talent webinar heard.

The webinar heard of Gen Z workers being stereotyped as lazy and not committed to their careers because of their embrace of work-life balance. On the other hand, older workers – baby boomers – are viewed as dinosaurs who can’t learn new things, particularly when it comes to IT. None of these stereotypes, based on conscious and unconscious bias, is useful nor gives people a fair chance, the webinar heard.

Yet when employees listen to their workers and promote multigenerational understanding and working it can be very powerful. Jane van Zyl from Working Families spoke, for instance, about the benefits of reverse mentoring and of apprenticeships for older workers. “The generations get on fine when you take away age limits,” she said, adding that that is how families work. It’s about getting the culture right and about achieving a balance between what the different generations want, for instance, graduates might want to spend more time in the office while older people might prefer home working.

It’s about recognising that flexible working means different things to different people. For some it may also mean job shares, she said. Van Zyl highlighted innovative practices to promote multigenerational working, such as creating shadow board members through bringing junior workers into the boardroom to act as sounding board for different parts of the organisation and exposing them to executive decision-making. She also spoke of employers who build networks of retired workers and use them to attract older workers back in on flexible terms that suit them. Lunch and learns that bring people together to keep their skills and knowledge up to date are on the rise and she added that things like sabbaticals and job design are becoming more popular.

Van Zyl said that making the most of age diversity requires line manager training and building a culture that is open to curiosity and challenging old ideas of how things have always been done.

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