Bridging the generation gap: HR strategies to support an intergenerational workplace
Research shows millennial workers value work-life balance over economic incentives, however, this isn’t representative of all working populations, especially older generations.
It can be difficult for HR and management to create balanced options for employees, because what may be a work imbalance for one person could be just right for someone else.
Every individual is influenced by their generation, upbringing and personality as to how they view the split between ‘work’ and ‘downtime’. In short, blanket policies are unlikely to cut it.
The key is to tap into the work-life balance needs of each demographic and provide a suite of options to reduce stress and prevent burn-out.
For example; Millennials and Gen Xers tend to see work-life balance as necessary, and look for perks like telecommuting, extended maternity/paternity time and adequate vacation time.
Older generations may be used to the 9-to-5 office culture and not desire to work from home or have a pick of different start and finish times. They may prefer split shifts, alternative work weeks or a job share as they consider decreasing working hours before retirement.
Evidence from the CIPD’s January 2019 Megatrends report suggests UK-wide take-up of flexible working has plateaued since 2010. This is unsurprising as flexible working can be tricky for HR teams to organise.
The first step for those grappling with flexible working is to work in tandem with other teams like operations, sales and management. Discuss current barriers and how changes can create flexible opportunities in more complex business environments.
For example; front-line roles like those in operational centres and sales offices often involve ‘high touch’ positions, requiring employees to be present when liaising with customers. However, companies could offer flexible start and finish times or the chance to work a compressed week, if workers are available during core hours.
Ask yourself what ‘flexibility’ could look like across different company roles. It could be older employees want to work from a location nearer home, but still want to come into the office each day.
Younger employees might want company technology to be put to better use. Supermarkets like Morrisons and Tesco have introduced software that lets staff request shift patterns and gives them greater control over their working hours and the chance to accept overtime.
Communication is key
Everyone has unique preferences for receiving information and open, transparent communication is key to encouraging trust among employees.
HR Managers should begin building out their engagement strategy by assessing how employees want to be communicated with. The most obvious answer for many modern employees is mobile.
People are on their phones most of the time, so getting company updates on their devices ensures they’re receiving your communication – on the right platform.
But the adoption of technology is often met with challenges from both leadership and employees. To handle this, focus on finding your champions – those excited by technology and the added value they can expect.
You’ll need multiple touchpoints to communicate your offerings and for older employees, this might include more traditional comms like formal company talks or booklets.
Everyone experiences physical or/and mental ill-health at some point in their lifetime, but these needs differ depending on age and lifestyle.
The difficulty for HR and business decision-makers is that illnesses and accidents are unpredictable. While it’s beneficial to run surveys and examine which wellbeing offerings are most useful, a full suite of services is still essential to ensure everyone is protected.
To understand the characteristics and needs of each generation, businesses should consult corporate health and wellbeing specialists, to create a useful strategy for the needs of every employee.
For example; for ‘Generation X’ caring for both children and elderly parents often creates emotional and financial stress.
Employers might provide convenient online or telephone access to GPs, to save employees time. Financial help like childcare vouchers in addition to flexible working could also support those raising children.
Employers can also use digital platforms to further promote and support health awareness. These allow staff to access relevant help and seek more personalised interventions, rather than employers providing a few generic services.
Jenni Wilson is a Corporate Director at Nuffield Health and has been responsible for the organisation’s corporate fitness accounts and clinical services, such as physiotherapy and occupational health.
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