Generations in the workforce

Rereading an article on the Entitlement Generation (Via BNET & ContingentWorkforce) got me thinking this morning about our ageing workforce and what can be done about it.

The ageing workforce is a huge issue that is getting lots and lots of press at the moment, but what can the average HR professional do to resolve the issue?

The issue is multi dimensional. Some organisations have too many younger people therefore missing out on the wisdom and experience of a 30 year veteran, some have too many older workers and then miss out on the innovation and other factors provided by younger workers.

In Australia we have one of the lowest participation rates in the 55 – 65 age bracket when compared to our OECD peers. While you personally might want to resolve the issue for your organisation you cannot just hire people to solve the demographic imbalance you need to have a supply of valid applicants that are suitable for the job. Undertaking a successful recruitment outcome to fix these issues requires the alignment of many different aspects of your HR strategy. Even after you successfully hire you have the people you need to make sure they are retained. If the culture of your organisation is young and hip a 30 year veteran will probably not last very long.

How do you successful engage workers from 3 different generations all at once? How do you create policies that take into account the different needs?

These are some big issues that we have to face and trying to solve them on a Sunday morning is just not possible, but it does get you thinking. Business, Work and Ageing has some really useful information that can be used by HR Managers to develop policies and approaches to mange these issues.

3 thoughts on “Generations in the workforce

  1. I am writing a thesis from a HR perspective regarding characterisitcs of the future grocery retail workforce, social impacts of possible changes and training for the future workforce. I was wondering if you had any articles or information you could assist in my preperation material or suggest other websites to collate information.
    With thanks,
    Chris Gould (0423362249)

  2. Chris this is a very large topic you are looking at, would suggest you start at Swinburne Uni and have a look at some of the research conduct there on the ageing workforce and demographics compared to society. As for other web sites there are a large number the chanllenge will be narrowing down the options. Have a look through the OPML file on the right hand side of my blog and you will find several 100 different HR related blogs. Good Luck.

  3. As a Gen-Xer, I am growing dismayed at the transition in the work place. For years I have had to deal with traditionalist / Baby boomer values and hierarchy. As I approach the point where I should be benefiting from the system I was raised under, the rules are changing. For instance here are some of the things I see changing.

    – In my early years my boss could yell at me, threaten me, or make rude comments and my only recourse was to take it or quit. Now that I have people working for me I have to be on pins and needles afraid they might misinterpret what I say even if I am being nice.
    – For years I have had to walk across an empty parking lot of reserved parking spaces. Now that I was just promoted to a level that I am supposed to get a parking space, they are planning to do away with reserved spaces.
    – I have been told I would get an office at the next promotion but after three promotions they have continued to raise the bar and convert more offices into cube farms.
    – I was told I needed more years of experience to compliment my abilities. But now the trend is to mentor and promote younger generation Y employees.
    – We were told we got lower pay because we had great retirement benefits but now retirement benefits (as with Social Security) look like they will be wiped out by the Baby boomers.
    – We worked nine to ten hour days as the norm with twelve hour days whenever needed. Now we have generation Y employees working for us and Baby Boomer bosses that regret not spending more time with their families asking we send the younger employees out the door after eight hours but still maintain the same productivity.

    We also need to consider that the Baby Boomers will take a long time to vacate the upper management slots they are holding. Generation Xers will have a long wait to take over those slots and will be ready for retirement themselves by the time they do finally wrestle control from the baby boomers. And at that time there will be a massive wave of Generation Y employees on their tails trying to take over.

    The relative size of the Generation X pool as compared to the Boomers and Yers will make it hard for Generation X to ever establish its own culture in many companies. While Innovation, hard work and drive for success have been received well by companies like Microsoft and SouthWest Airlines, many companies find these Generation X attributes to be non conducive to a “team environment”. At one time the Generation X employees had an ally in the Traditionalist who also had an aggressive pro work attitude but they are all but gone. Generation Xers who thrived on the ability to out perform their technology challenged older coworkers are now finding themselves rated on popularity and other social considerations. In a stereotypical example: In the 80s and 90’s the twenty something Generation Xer could write a software routine to do a job three or four times faster than their forty something coworker with great appreciation from the traditionalist boss. Now that boss has retired and the boomer is in charge. The Generation X worker is now getting rated on how well they are working with the newly hired Generation Y worker. The Generation X workers are being forced to give the new workers a level of equality that they had to work for. While Generation X workers are waiting for the Gen Yers to prove themselves, they are getting lower ratings on their performance appraisals for failing to adapt to the younger generations.

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