By 2020, Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z will co-exist in the workforce. Workforces are becoming progressively diverse in age demographics, creating environments that are opulent with experience as well as youthful enthusiasm. If organizations want to remain competitive in the 21st Century, it is imperative that they implement strategies to navigate the age-diversity of the 2020 workforce. Organizations that embrace the concept of the multi-generational workforce can benefit from the diverse range of skills that comes with employing workers in a varying age ranges.
Each generation can bring a different skill set and by working together they can also complement each other. For example, a mature professional understands the importance of soft skills and can mentor younger employees on the aspects of traditional face-to-face communication. In contrast, younger employees have an intrinsic understanding of high-tech business mediums due to their familiarity with growing up in a “high-tech” society. This wide-range of competences can offer an advantage to an organization that acclimates to a multi-generational demographic. There are several ways organizations can leverage the dynamics of a multi-generational workplace to combat the challenges of the 2020 workplace.
Combat the Boomer Brain Drain
According to Georgetown University report (2013), 31 million jobs will open up as Baby Boomers retire, and another 24 million new jobs will be available by 2020. This will create a vacuum of expertise that will leave organizations scrambling to fill the knowledge gap left vacated by the Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers will need to be re-engaged by implementing succession planning strategies to transfer the knowledge to the younger workers. Baby Boomers are delaying retirement due to various reasons (financial, engagement, stress, etc.) and organizations can capitalize on this transition period by positioning Baby Boomers as the experts on subject matter in their organizations. Through mentorship and development training, mature workers can pass down the traditions, knowledge base, and tools to prepare the younger workers for leadership roles.
Position Generation Xers for Leadership
Due to the retirement transition of the Baby Boomers, Generation Xers will be moving into leadership roles. Gen Xers will be the buffer between the 78 million Baby Boomers and the 80 million Millennials. This presents a unique challenge because Gen Xers only number about 53 million. As leadership roles are vacated by mature workers, ,, there will be too few Gen Xers to fill those roles; they will make up only 20% of the workforce. Millennials may not have the knowledge and maturity needed for leadership roles. This will create a “war” for talent. With the shortage of the Gen Xers and the inexperience of the Millennials, organizations may not be able to fill management roles 3-5 years from now. However, organizations can mitigate this challenge by removing roadblocks – engagement, financial, personal- and develop plans to prepare Gen Xers for those leadership roles. This support will help solidify their transition into management by giving them the confidence to secure such roles.
Technology is extremely valuable in the workplace, in terms of webcasting, social media and online demonstrations. Organizations must embrace technology in the workplace to communicate and effectively reach customers. An organization that contains tech-savvy employees has a definite advantage over organizations that employ only mature workers. Young professionals were cultivated in a high-tech society and have a prodigious familiarity with business technology tools compared to their more mature colleagues. Younger employees know how to utilize technology to help employees create faster, communicate quicker, and understand easier.
Each generation comes with its own unique challenges and advantages. By tapping into skill sets and creating a cohesive workplace environment of age-diversity, organizations will reap the benefits that come with having a multi-generational workplace. Not only will organizations have the capability to retain valuable knowledge and expertise, but it will harness future innovation.