We live in a time where there are more generations at work than ever before. Life expectancy the world over is improving, the global population has grown significantly since the 1950s and with better healthcare people are staying in the workforce until much later. These continuing trends will have a dramatic effect on the workplace over the next few decades. Which raises a real challenge for employee engagement - how can we get different generations at work to co-operate productively together?
RAW Brothers have worked with many organisations looking for ways to unite the personality of their organisation (their vision, purpose, and values) with the people that work there and their physical place. We have been fascinated by the insights we have gained about the different generations at work and how they interact in workplace culture.
The early workplace was a place where leadership dictated the workplace culture. The attitude of a ‘job for life’ shaped the vision of your world, and you did what you were told. The 1980s then ushered in a new era, with new-fangled concepts of ‘work-life balance’, ‘work-hard play-hard’, individual career preferences and choice – far more of a ‘dualistic culture’. Since then there has been further radical transformation through technology, the youngest in our workforce now embracing a culture of globally shared values and collaboration through technology, seeing the workforce as a truly global community.
These three diverse cultures all co-exist in the workplace today. The challenge facing us is how to build trust and understanding across these generations at work, bringing more cohesion in the workplace.
We are constantly told that we are living in isolating times. Technology has liberated us, but at the same time put us on individual islands; we are more connected but living more behind closed doors. There are figures, however, which paint a more positive picture, of cohesion and interaction between the generations:
of young people aged 16-29 still live with their parents across Europe (2017)
In the UK in 2018 a quarter of those between the ages of 20 and 34 - 3.4 million young people - were still living in the family home, up from 2.4 million in 2003.
Clearly these trends are influenced by factors such as rising house prices, but what if they also signify a desire for connection and closeness across the generations, an enjoyment and valuing of each other’s influence - collaboration rather than obsession with differences?
Whatever the driving reasons, it’s clear that generations are finding themselves pushed together again, and are embracing it. If the same collaboration can be harnessed in workplace culture then we are onto a winner: organisations will see youth complement age, energy and fresh ideas combine with experience and wisdom. Building trust and effecting a transformation in workplace values, workplace culture, and business performance.
Embrace the idea of diverse generations at work. Like the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”, think “It takes generations to make a workplace”. Instead of seeing your employees of varying age and work ethos as a problem, see it as a positive force, to be harnessed into inspiration and transformation.
One of the keys to embracing diverse generations at work is the creative, strategic design of the physical work space. Consider properly what will help your different employees deliver their best work. Think about how you can you create a workplace where one size doesn’t fit all, but has varied settings that embrace age diversity.
Ask your employees (of different generations) for insights into what they need to do their best day’s work.
Design a workplace around these different requirements, with varied settings to enable people to work as they need to, and facilitate collaboration.
Don’t discriminate in favour of age or youth, but build a ‘village’ of skills valuing input from all ages and cultures.
RAW Brothers use creative thinking to help solve businesses strategic challenges, providing expert insights into your organisation’s brand and workplace. Working across different business sectors all over the world, we have a tried-and-tested methodology connecting your organisation’s personality, people, and place: a connection we believe is instrumental in addressing challenges such as employee engagement across the generations at work.
We work with fantastic partners such as The Art of Work who are experts in developing people; and together can help you create great places to work with strong workplace values, a positive workplace culture and an engaged, productive workforce.
It takes all generations to make a workplace successfulRAW Brothers
At RAW Brothers we believe that the most creative, effective approach to organisational change is to link it holistically to your organisation’s personality, its people, and its physical place.
Brand is always more than a logo, it’s a narrative, it’s the story we tell each other. Its what we believe and experience about a person, an organisation its products and services.
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