Are you ready for a 4-generation workplace?

Flexible total reward strategies needed to maintain skilled workforce

By Claudine Kapel

Do your total rewards and talent strategies consider the implications of a multi-generational workforce?

With older workers delaying their retirements and the post-millennial generation making its entrance, organizations are starting to see four generations working side by side.

It should be readily apparent that employees of all ages have many common expectations and priorities. But savvy organizations should also seek to address age- and generation-specific needs and nuances so as to optimize their ability to attract and retain talent and foster high levels of performance.

A new study by the U.K.-based Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), however, found only 14 per cent of organizations have a board-level strategy in place for responding to an aging population, with a further six per cent indicating they are working on a business case for such a strategy.

The study, entitled Managing an Age-Diverse Workforce, reflects data from two recent CIPD surveys, its Labour Market Outlook with 935 human resource respondents and its Employee Outlook with 2,691 employee respondents.

Some 31 per cent of the human resource respondents indicate they deal reactively with issues pertaining to an aging employee population “as they arise.” A further 15 per cent indicate they have considered possible implications but had not identified a need to change how they do things, while 15 per cent said they have not given any consideration to the issue.

“Businesses need to start preparing for a more age-diverse population now or they risk skills shortages and being at a competitive disadvantage in the future,” cautions CIPD.

The rise of a four-generation workplace will put pressure on organizations to have more flexible – and more customizable – total rewards strategies. When you look across the different age groups in your organization, what will it take to get them all paddling effectively in the same direction?

While most employees are looking for competitive compensation and benefits, opportunities for learning and growth and a positive and respectful work environment, the points of emphasis or key priorities can vary with age.

To ensure your total rewards strategy is suitably flexible, it may help to consider how needs and priorities may vary by age group or generation in areas such as:

  • Benefits coverage (e.g., individual versus family) and the types of benefits offered.
  • Training and development needs and optimal approaches for supporting learning and growth.
  • Career aspirations.
  • Flexible work arrangements.
  • Workplace accommodations to support performance (e.g., work environment modifications aimed at helping older workers).

But addressing total rewards considerations is just part of the equation for managing a multi-generational workforce effectively. Managers and leaders also need to become adept at recognizing and responding to the unique needs of different age groups.

And the CIPD study suggests this represents another area where organizations are falling short. Only 37 per cent of its human resource respondents indicate line managers are trained on how to foster teamwork among employees of different ages. Further, 46 per cent indicate managers receive no training on this and there are no plans to change this.

Meanwhile, only 35 per cent of employee respondents felt their manager was either effective or very effective at managing age diverse teams.

Yet both the HR and employee respondents saw benefits to having employees of different ages working together. The HR respondents saw knowledge sharing as the top benefit, followed by enhanced customer service and improved problem-solving.

Employee respondents saw having access to different perspectives as the top benefit, followed by knowledge sharing, new ideas and improved problem-solving.

The multi-generational workplace isn’t new – although the rise of the four-generation workplace means organizations are becoming more age diverse than ever before. The most effective strategies for addressing an aging population will tackle the total rewards implications as well as the implications for management and leadership development.

These considerations, when addressed in an integrated manner, can help organizations foster a high-performing work environment where everyone can contribute, regardless of age.

Claudine Kapel

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation design, performance management, and employee communications. Claudine is also the co-author of The HR Manager’s Guide to Total Rewards and Straight Talk on Managing Human Resources.
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