Bridging the Age Gap in the Workplace
TORONTO, December 8, 2011 – As a younger generation of workers begin their climb up the career ladder, workplace environments will face significant adjustments as employers try to find a common ground between values and work styles that are completely different from the baby boomers.
Randstad Canada President Jan Hein Bax says finding ways to bridge the gaps within this new multigenerational workforce takes great skill – and it all starts with gaining an understanding of how each generation thinks, and what's important to them.
According to recent Statistics Canada’s findings, in May 2011 there were a reported 18,537,300* people in the Canadian Labour Force (ages 15 and older). Closer inspection by generation indicates there are a reported 436,000* Mature/WWII Generation workers (people born prior to 1943), 6,924,500* Baby Boomers (those born between 1943 to 1960), 6,005,500* Generation X workers (1961-1981) and 5,171,300* Generation Y/Millennials (born after 1982) that make up the country’s workforce.
Bax says it’s important for companies to recognize that today’s workplace is a multi-generational one – and each generation has its own set of expectations, needs, values and working styles. “With an age gap of nearly 50 years between the oldest and youngest employees in some organizations, it is inevitable that you will find a broad range of perspectives, needs and attitudes in the workplace. The new generations of workers often have a very different approach and view to work than their older colleagues,” he says.
According to the results of a recent ICMA International survey sponsored by Randstad Canada, there are interesting variations amongst younger and older workers and job seekers. “The results show that older generations look for companies that are financially stable, while young people who are entering the job market for the first time say they are more attracted to innovative companies with a strong image and reputation,” says Bax.
Additionally, the survey concluded that the importance of career progression opportunities and global mobility appears to decrease with age; while on the other hand, the importance of comfort and strong values increased with age.
Bax emphasizes that with all of these generations in the workforce at the same time, all there for different reasons, it can be seen as a challenge but should actually be seen an opportunity. “When we surround ourselves with multiple generations there is a wonderful opportunity for input and collaboration, and to benefit from both the invaluable experience of older workers and the creative thinking of the younger workforce,” he says.
According to Bax, it takes effort to make sure your company is a great place to work for every generation. “It's up to employers to train managers, human resources reps and employees to help multiple generations work together. Initiate and encourage opportunities for discussion, such as workshops or training sessions, facilitated by one or each of the generational groups. You’ll hit stereotypes head on, and get a fresh, different perspective every time,” he says. “If you are genuine in your desire to work with all generations you will be well on your way to creating a positive and productive work environment.”
*Source: Statistics Canada, "Labour Force Characteristics by Selected Age Groups in Canada: 2010 Annual Average and 2011 Average from January to May." Labour Force Survey, CANSIM, (June 2011).
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