Bringing age diversity into the hybrid workplace


Research suggests that generational differences are an overlooked source of diversity within organisations, as employees of different ages bring diversity of thought, perspectives, and experiences.


Generational differences are often missed in discussions about diversity and resilient working cultures. However, age diversity plays an important role as attitudes about work vary according to when people grew up, as well as based on their experiences. Age-diverse teams bring together people with complementary abilities, skills, information, and networks, and if managed effectively, they can often lead to better decision-making, more-productive collaboration, and improved overall performance. But the challenge for leaders is how to adapt their style to meet the needs of the various age groups and turn the differences into a business advantage, in a hybrid workplace.


Seeing beyond the generational stereotypes


There are currently five different generations working alongside each other, presenting new opportunities for businesses leveraging the benefits of a multi-generational workforce. This diversity naturally means that there are generational differences not only in what they value, but also how they work, collaborate, and communicate. The generational differences became even more significant in a hybrid setting, making it more important to create a holistic work environment suitable for employees of all life stages, as trends on both ends of the age spectrum demand a much more collaborative, networked, and fluid workplace where each generation is actively engaged.


But it's important to avoid stereotyping individuals within a generation. Leaders who drive diversity and inclusion need to focus on what matters most - the individual, rather than group differences. This requires understanding of what makes each person unique and how they differ from everyone else, while acknowledging the group differences. Trying to understand each person for who they are and treating them as individuals rather than members of a demographic group is what drives engagement and makes employees feel valued.


When leaders demonstrate respect for the worth of individuals in all communications and actions despite any generational differences, employees feel appreciated, leading to a trickle-down effect among co-workers. Although there are varying communication styles and preferences for different generations, one silver lining of the pandemic was the necessity for employees to adapt and use optimal communication tools. As a result, the lines between different communication styles have blurred, with employees better equipped to handle different techniques, as long as communication is clear.


The work life balance differences


Many of today’s older leaders began their careers at a time when progression into management came with long hours and frequent travel, but research suggests that younger employees are less willing to accept that trade-off. Research tells us that 38 percent of Gen Z employees consider work-life balance the most critical factor in choosing an employer and they are also asking more about organisational values. This is much different to a decade ago when it was unlikely for an interviewee to ask a prospective employer about their diversity, equity and inclusion policies.


Establishing work-life boundaries is neither an isolated matter of organisational policies, or personal responsibility. It needs to be a shared commitment by both employees and employers. With The Great Resignation underway, the focus on staff wellbeing and retention across all generations is growing even more important. And with 953,000 jobs advertised in the UK between May and July last year, representing a record high, creating work cultures that suit all generations should be high on leadership agendas. But this cannot be created from the top down - it must be built by and with employees of all ages and types.


Although leaders have been managing multigenerational workforces for many years, the hybrid model adds a slight twist to the equation. Balancing the needs of remote, in-office and hybrid workers, along with the organisational goals, requires leaders to focus on the big picture while also addressing any habits present in various employee segments. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at simon@askacumen.com.