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How to create a company culture that works for all ages

Tags: HR, blog

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Workplace culture image made of scrabble tiles

Given that employees spend most of their time at work, it’s imperative that companies establish and maintain a culture that promotes camaraderie, physical & mental wellbeing, productivity and a sense of purpose. In this article, I take a look at the three generations that make up today’s workforce, and how employers can implement a culture that works for everyone!

Who makes up the UK’s workforce?

Three main generations currently comprise the UK workforce. Each have been raised in differing economic, social and historical contexts and are often assumed to have varying aspirations and behave differently at work.

However, it’s important to note that the generational cohort spans 15 years, (with Baby Boomers spanning 20 years) and they often have more in common with each other than not. Individuals come from diverse cultural and class backgrounds regardless of generation. These factors tend to shape individual perceptions and what one hopes to get out of their workplace.

 The UK workforce now spans three broadly-defined generations;

  • Baby Boomers Born Between: 1946 to mid-1960s Age: 50-70

  • Generation X Born Between: Mid-1960s to early 1980s Age: 35-49

  • Generation Y (Millennials) Born Between: Early 1980s to mid-1990s Age: 20-34

How does the Senior Management Regime instill the right working culture and environment?

It all starts by evaluating the businesses’ current culture.

Most organisations want to project a positive image to the world. But sometimes the moral values that make a company’s culture seem attractive on the surface, are more of an idealistic front rather than reality.

Although founders may initially outline values, these can be easily neglected. Culture often finds itself in the backseat when fast-growing start ups place sole focus on customers and revenue, or when long-standing and established organisations stubbornly cling to old legacies and work flows.

How should we implement the right culture for all ages?

As a manager, you have the power to determine whether your multi-generational workplace is fulfilling and productive, or stressful and challenging. It’s imperative that you know how to relate to your employees regardless of their generation and background, all whilst encouraging them to collaborate and share ideas. Here are five steps to get you started:

Gender diversity in the workplace creates the ideal harmonious working culture

1. Don’t dwell on differences

Workplace generations come with their own unique set of stereotypes. We have the Millennials - who seem surgically attached to their smart phones, the Gen Xers – who are notoriously cynical and only look out for themselves, and the Baby Boomers – Technologically-challenged dinosaurs who are mystified by Twitter.

When managing multiple generations in the workplace, it’s vitally important to lay all of these stereotypes aside and focus on people individually. Your goal is to help your team move beyond the labels, without assuming that people need special treatment due to their age or when they were born.

2. Build collaborative relationships

As people work longer and delay retirement, it’s more common to see younger individuals managing people who are older than them, and this can lead to tension from both sides. For this reason, it’s important to encourage a collaborative approach when managing teams.

Rather than boss people around, you should aim to make individuals on your team your partners, and involve them in everything you do.

You’ll still be the one making the final decisions, but showing your team that you value their input and what they bring to the table will increase their trust and willingness to communicate with you about matters that concern their overall wellbeing, productivity or the company at large.

3. Study your employees

Just as you would research a new product or service, you need to study the demographics of your current workforce and the projected demographics of your future workforce to determine what they want out of their jobs.

If your company conducts surveys of vision and values, add new questions to the mix, such as queries about your employees’ preferred communication style and planned professional paths. You can then use that information to look critically at your human resources and business strategies.

You should aim to find out what matters to different sets of employees and what you can do to retain younger or more experienced workers.

Employees bonding in the workplace

4. Create opportunities for cross-generational mentoring

Reverse or reciprocal mentoring programs, which pair younger workers with seasoned executives to work on specific business objectives usually involving technology, are increasingly prevalent in many offices.

For example, digital natives can teach older individuals about the power of social media to drive business results. Meanwhile, the more experienced employee will be able to share institutional knowledge with the younger employees.

Research shows that colleagues learn more from each other than they do from formal training, which is why it is so important to establish a culture of coaching across different age groups.

5. Consider life paths

When it comes to inspiring and incentivising employees across different age groups, you must consider their life experiences and what their needs are. Younger individuals may have less obligations outside of work, while employees in their 30s and 40s will likely have children and mortgages, and thus need flexibility as well as money and advancement.

 

It takes two components to make your company’s culture tick - the people you employ and how you motivate them to reach their fullest potential.

Whilst it may be easy for any business to simply write down what they would like the working environment and culture to be, they ultimately need to lead by example and thus motivate their existing employees to uphold an optimal and attractive working culture. 

 

Author: Alex Nash – Regulatory Risk & Compliance Consultant - contactable on [email protected]

Alex Nash - HR & Risk Recruitment Consultant