Headlines: March 31st, 2014

THE “4G” future where employees from four generations will work side by side for the first time in history is to be welcomed not feared. However, organisations will be at a disadvantage and experience further skills shortages unless they start planning for the changes now.

That’s according to the latest research from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, which shows that employers and employees see clear benefits from an increasingly age diverse workforce but need to do more to take full advantage.

UKCES Commissioner Toby Peyton-Jones has questioned whether this emerging multi-generational workplace will spell stress and culture clashes or create positive tension leading to innovation. The CIPD’s study of nearly 3000 employees and over 900 employers points strongly to the latter. Almost a third of employees saw no challenges whatsoever in working with colleagues from different generations, with employers and employees in agreement that knowledge sharing and greater innovation are by far the leading benefits.

However, despite the gains to be made, CIPD’s research, ‘Managing an age-diverse workforce’, reveals that many organisations are still ill prepared to capitalise on the opportunities that an age diverse workforce where nearly a third of employers say that they react to issues relating to the ageing population as they arise rather than having a strategy in place.

Rather worryingly employers are most likely to say their organisation does nothing to ensure it has access to enough skilled and diverse people of all ages. A fifth of employers say their organisation has no provisions in place to ensure employees of all ages develop and keep their skills up to date.Nearly half of employers said that line managers are not trained in managing teams of different generations and that their organisation has no plans to change this. This seems to be an oversight, particularly in the light of 1 in 5 employees believing their managers to be ineffective in this area.

Claire McCartney, Research Adviser at the CIPD, said: “Despite well-publicised skills shortages and low productivity, our research shows that businesses are not doing enough to recruit from an increasingly age diverse talent pool. And even amongst those companies that are, many simply aren’t equipped to manage their age diverse teams in order to maximise their potential. This is a missed opportunity and could put businesses at a serious disadvantage in a four-generation future.

“The good news is that both employers and employees recognise the benefits that workers from different generations bring. Indeed, fears of intergenerational tensions in the workplace couldn’t be further from the truth. Companies report important business benefits such as knowledge sharing and enhanced customer service, while employees clearly enjoy the new perspectives and fresh ideas inspired by working with people of diverse ages.

“To capitalise on these opportunities, organisations must be much more proactive. They need to do more to tap into the variety of skills an age diverse workforce can bring and ensure they are able to support the extension of working life. Practical and immediate steps they should take include employing strategies to bring in and develop talent of all ages and providing line managers with more support.

“We know that the multi-generational workplace is on the horizon, and businesses need to act now if they want to be prepared.”

The CIPD will be creating a number of resources on how to manage an age diverse workforce, including a practical guide for employers being launched this summer.