How to build a multigenerational workforce

A recent webinar by Alexander Mann Solutions explored how to bridge the generation gap that exists in today’s multigenerational workforce.

Multigenerational Team


Multigenerational issues have not been in the foreground of conversations at work, but the last few years have shown that it is more important than ever to bring people of all ages together as every generation entering the workforce has shrunk and talent shortages remain a problem.

That was the thrust of an Alexander Mann Solutions webinar on multigenerational workplaces last week.  “We need to unite the generations and maximise the workforce,” said Adam Hawkins, Head of Sales – Search and Staffing Industry Vertical from LinkedIn, adding that employers need to unlock the skills of all their workers.

Gabriella Driver, Vice President of Culture and Talent at Chubb, said that there are big opportunities in getting multigenerational working right, but also a lot of potential for conflict between the generations. She noted that everyone has their own generational mindset and is shaped by the environment they grew up in. “If we allow those biases to kick in there is a potential for conflict,” she said. “We need to find opportunities for people to connect on the basis of their similarities rather than their differences. Empathy and curiosity are the key leadership skills needed.”

Targeted benefits

Speakers mentioned the need for benefits to be moulded to the different needs of different generations. Chris Folwell, Uber’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion lead, said that, given Uber is a relatively young company, its policies and benefits need to be tailored to the age of the workforce at the moment, for instance, sabbatical leave at older companies is usually reserved for people who have decades of service. That is not the case at Uber and they have decided that it is better to offer smaller chunks of sabbatical with shorter years of service. He called these ‘sabbatical moments’ and they are available to those with a minimum of five years of service which he says seems more attainable to a younger workforce, including parents of young children. “It gives them an opportunity to plan for something quite near in the future,” he said.

Amy Hull, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Paycor, agreed that employers are often skimming the surface of diversity and inclusion and ignoring other forms of diversity, such as age when it comes to the benefits they offer. She added that younger workers are much more entrepreneurial than in the past and can leave to set up their own business.

At the other end of the age scale, Natasha Whitehurst, Global Diversity & Inclusion Leader at Rolls Royce, spoke about a recent project with over 55 year olds in one part of the company. She said that they had the lowest ratings on inclusion, with many feeling less included and respected as well as that their experience was overlooked. She added that many are both carers and parents and don’t have the capacity to stay late, even if they want to. That awareness is vital, she said, as is ensuring sponsorship and mentorship works at both ends of the age spectrum, that all employee network groups have an age lens and that all employees feel they can ask questions. They may get things wrong, she said, but they need a space that is psychologically safe so that they can raise them.

Strategies for strong multigen teams

Hawkins outlined five strategies for stronger multigenerational teams. They include balance [rather than just flexibility], bearing in mind that balance is different for different people; tailored benefits such as grandparent leave, sabbaticals and lifelong learning; a sense of belonging through multigenerational communications, bearing in mind each generation communicates differently, and, for example, reverse mentoring; a focus on the office environment as a place for socialising and friendship in order to entice people back; and finding common ground between generations to lessen potential friction.

Driver spoke of the need for employers to explore different career paths, including entrepreneurship, rather than simply linear progression, for instance, giving workers an opportunity to evolve sideways rather than only upwards. It is about not only ladders but also lattices, she said.

For Folwell it is important to offer globally relevant wellbeing benefits, such as funding for people to spend on health and wellbeing in the way that is most relevant to them. He stated: “It’s important to understand what matters most to each generation and to get to know people as individuals.” Hull and Whitehurst added that it is vital to be open-minded and not assume what you think people need.

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