The power of the multi-generational workforce

HR has to look at ways to harness age diversity to improve performance and retention.

Interestingly, research shows that the productivity of both older and younger workers is higher in companies with mixed-age work teams. So, age-diversity can also potentially improve organisational performance and employee retention.

As a result, HR departments will need to foster an environment where employees are equally open to continuous learning and to sharing knowledge. They also need to accommodate different learning styles as they seek to equip their teams with the skills and technology they need to thrive in a digital world.

Technology is one way to facilitate learning and collaboration in a multigenerational workplace, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Forward-thinking companies are also looking at how they can tailor their employee experience to different training preferences and work styles.

Salomi Kruger, managing director for Applico Training & Services, shares a few practices that can help with unlocking the value of a diverse workforce:

  • Embrace cross-generational mentoring: The different generations within a workplace have a great deal to share with each other. Generations Y and Z can help upskill older co-workers in digital ways of working and provide insights into customers of their own age. Their older colleagues, in turn, can share institutional knowledge and mentor younger colleagues in business and interpersonal skills.

  • A menu of learning options: Each individual learns differently. Some of us are better at retaining written knowledge, others perform better when they watch a video or listen to an audiobook, and some prefer to learn through practical, on-the-job practice. Many people like to learn in groups through interactive discussion; others are at their best learning independently.

  • Personalise rather than stereotype: Generational stereotypes abound. Boomers don’t get technology. Generation X likes to work independently. Generation Y is entitled. Generation Z needs constant feedback. And so forth. Don’t buy into the clichés because there are always exceptions. Rather use insights about your workforce to create learning programmes that are tailored to real people rather than theoretical personas.

  • Build age-diverse teams: A great way to foster intergenerational learning and collaboration is to ensure that core teams represent a healthy mix of the generations in the workplace. This enables people to learn from each other as they work. Plus, there is evidence that age-diversity correlates positively with performance in groups solving complex decision-making tasks.

  • Next generation learning tools and technologies: Forward-thinking organisations will be looking beyond today’s menu of digital learning solutions towards what’s coming next. Technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI) are potential game changers. The potential of AI is especially exciting – it could be applied to creating personalised learning recommendations, content and pathways for employees at great scale.

  • Practical and in-the-moment: Microlearning delivers information in engaging, bite-sized pieces, allowing people to learn even when they’re under time pressure. Retention is often better because employees can focus on getting the knowledge they need and then applying it. Delivering learning in the moment is about delivering learning in the flow of the person’s work and allowing them to use their new knowledge or skill in a real-world situation.
  • Flexibility and engagement: There’s little doubt that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital learning models across the world. However, as important as technology has become in delivering learning content, the human touch remains important.