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Workers from different generations bring huge benefits to business

Survey reveals multi-generational workplaces will lead to positive tension and innovation...

A workplace in which four generations will work side by side for the first time in history will result in greater innovation, research has suggested.        
One third of nearly 3,000 employees surveyed by the CIPD said they saw no challenges whatsoever in working with colleagues from different generations, but rather greater opportunities to share knowledge.

Earlier this month the UK Commission for Employment and Skills Future of Work report suggested that multi-generational or ‘4G’ workplaces will become commonplace in the future as people delay retiring until their 70s or 80s. Questioning what the implications of that would be, UKCES commissioner Toby Peyton-Jones, said: “Will we see inter-generational stress and culture clashes or will this prove to be a positive tension that is part of a wider diversity trend that will drive innovation?”

The CIPD’s research suggests the vision should be welcomed, not feared. However, according to the report, Managing an age-diverse workforce, businesses will be at a competitive disadvantage and experience further skills shortages unless they start planning for the changes now.

Thirty one per cent of more than 900 employers surveyed as part of the report say that they react to issues relating to the ageing population as they arise rather than having a strategy in place. Employers are most likely to say (34%) their organisation does nothing to ensure it has access to enough skilled and diverse people of all ages. A fifth of employers say their organisation (22%) has no provisions in place to ensure employees of all ages develop and keep their skills up to date.

“Despite well-publicised skills shortages and low productivity, our research shows that businesses are not doing enough to recruit from an increasingly age diverse talent pool,” said Claire McCartney, research adviser at the CIPD. “And even amongst those companies that are, many simply aren’t equipped to manage their age diverse teams in order to maximise their potential. This is a missed opportunity and could put businesses at a serious disadvantage in a four-generation future.”

“The good news is that both employers and employees recognise the benefits that workers from different generations bring. Indeed, fears of intergenerational tensions in the workplace couldn’t be further from the truth. Companies report important business benefits such as knowledge sharing and enhanced customer service, while employees clearly enjoy the new perspectives and fresh ideas inspired by working with people of diverse ages.”

McCartney said businesses should do more to tap into the variety of skills an age diverse workforce can bring and ensure they are able to support the extension of working life. This could include employing strategies to bring in and develop talent of all ages and providing line managers with more support, she said.

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