How to Unlock the Energy of 5 Generations in 1 Workplace

Mar 28, 2024

Without many of us realising, the five-generation workplace has become the norm; the combination of advances in medical technology improving life expectancy and the economic squeeze of the past 15 years has meant living longer and working longer has become commonplace.

As of 2023, there are five generations in the workplace: traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X (Gen X), millennials, and Generation Z (Gen Z).”

That covers everyone between the ages of 16 to 75.

Economic pressures and extended lifespans are resulting in people working longer than ever. Never before have we had such a broad spectrum of people, experience and beliefs working together in one place. 

This inter-generational melting pot can have a significant impact on your company’s ongoing culture, recruitment and retention, with studies revealing that more than 90% of employees reported culture impacts their decision to stay with their company. 

So, this poses a salient question: What changes can organisations make in their workplace to improve the attraction and retention of talent in a five-generation workplace?

Is it possible to appeal to everyone; to create an environment that allows people from all generations to thrive?

In this article, we’ll explore the real-life impact that the five-generation workplace is having on the attraction and retention of exceptional talent. 

Know and understand what your people are thinking

The first step any organisation needs to take when looking to improve workplace experience, recruitment and retention is to better understand what your existing employees are thinking. 

You need to know:

  • What people would like to improve
  • What people want to remain the same
  • How people use your workspace
  • Why people enjoy coming to work
  • Are there any barriers between teams/individuals?
  • Are older/younger people struggling to build rapport with others?

The best way to source this data is through an anonymous People & Place study. Encourage your people to be genuine and honest, to reveal the good, the bad and the ugly.

Without this data, you’re shooting in the dark. It’ll be almost impossible for you to make the required improvements to your workplace experience if you have no idea what needs to improve!

Once you understand what your people are thinking, you can better adjust your workplace to suit. Making your organisation a place where employees are reluctant to leave, and prospects are desperate to join!

Take proactive measures to improve your workplace experience & organisational reputation

Improving your retention is down to workplace experience. 

Improving your attraction is down to organisational reputation. 

By improving the former, you bolster the latter. Here are 9 proactive measures you need to take to help build a better environment and make your organisation a more desirable place to work. 

1. Measure your Employee NPS (Net Promoter Score)

Your Net Promoter Score is a really important metric and a relatively simple process. 

While NPS is usually used to gauge how happy your customers or clients are, the same principle can just as easily be applied to your employees, often known as an Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS). 

If you’re unaware, the premise is simple – every employee is (anonymously) asked a question:

How likely is it that you would recommend [Organisation Name] to a friend or colleague?

Respondents are asked to answer on a scale of 0 (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely). 

Promoters will respond with a score of 9 or 10 – these are employees who are loyal and enthusiastic; they love working at your organisation. 

Passives respond with a score of 7 or 8. They’re satisfied working for you, but are not happy enough to be considered promoters. 

Detractors are those who respond with a score from 0-6. These are unhappy employees who may even discourage people from working for you. 

By taking an average of these anonymous scores, you get your Net Promoter Score. If it averages lower, you have some work to do. If you enjoy a higher average, there are still things you may look to tweak to demonstrate your commitment to ongoing improvement. 

2. Upskill managers to better work in a changing world

We’re living in a hybrid world. There’s no escaping it; it’s here to stay. 

However, this change happened unusually rapidly, making it incredibly difficult for middle managers and line managers to keep up. 

Not only this, but, as mentioned, people are working for longer. Managers are unlikely trained on how to best work with both Millennials and Gen Zers, or how to manage inter-age relationships.

Your managers need leadership training, and not through any fault of their own. They may have been perfectly competent leaders 10 years ago, but the workplace landscape has changed dramatically. They need to be confident:

  • Managing a broad spread of ages
  • Building rapport with hybrid and remote workers
  • Ensuring that processes remain efficient without in-person contact

It’s not easy helping wildly different parties relate to one another, but it’s an important skill that modern managers need. 

3. Build a hybrid-friendly environment

In addition to training, it’s important that your environment is suitable to accommodate the hybrid worker. 

Workspaces need to be comfortable and have a sense of community around them. Employees must not feel as if they would be performing better at home; the environment you build should be conducive to high-quality work and meet their needs at all times. Consider:

  • Comfort – Most employees now have a comfortable working environment at home, one which they’ve designed around their needs and works perfectly for them. If your workplace cannot emulate this, it cannot compete.
  • Community –  One thing that a home workspace cannot build is a strong sense of community. This is your key differentiator; your workplace needs to feel like an exclusive members’ club. Build spaces for collaboration, create channels of natural communication, incorporate mindfulness sessions, if your staff would enjoy that. You know your people best.
  • Connectivity – In a hybrid workplace, it’s unlikely that you’ll often have all members of staff in at once, making connectivity key. Of course, great infrastructure is required to ensure fast internet speeds, but your workplace should also include quiet spaces where people can conduct individual/group video calls, meetings, training and interviews.
  • Ease of use – Friction is the workplace killer. You’re competing with zero commute, home comforts and a loungewear-friendly dresscode, you’re going to need to up your game. Consider comfortable furniture, fluid, open spaces and easy-to-use social spaces. 
  • Flexibility – People like choice, and we’re increasingly seeing people rebelling against being told where they can and cannot sit. Many successful workplaces don’t feel like working environments at all. People need the flexibility to work in a way that’s right for them. 

4. Develop unique, fruitful training programmes

From a recruitment and retention perspective, training is paramount. 

If your existing team can see that you’re investing in their skills and their future, they’re less likely to want to leave.

If prospective employees know that your organisation is the place to be if they want to develop their careers, they’re far more likely to apply. 

Your training needs to be unique, fruitful and regular. Everyone, both internally and externally, needs to see the impact that your training is having on the careers of your people. Investing in your employees is investing in your organisational future. This is an essential step for any business wanting to secure the brightest talent and secure their long-term future. 

Not only do you need to consider your training programmes, but also the environment(s) in which they are delivered. 

While older generations may be more accustomed to formal training in a meeting room, Gen X or Millennials may prefer less formal seating arrangements that allow for more organic training sessions. 

5. Address concerns around AI in your industry

Pandora’s Box has been opened – AI has irrevocably changed the world. 

But the question many people are asking is: do we trust AI?*

Employers need to understand that they are a source of trust. The communications you broadcast can and will impact how you are perceived. 

As a result of this, you need to address AI – talk to your team about how AI is a tool, not a replacement. Reassure both your people and prospective employees that yes, AI is a part of our lives, but it’ll never replace them at your organisation. 

Ensure that your training keeps pace with AI development. This is especially important for older individuals who may fear being made obsolete by AI as they struggle to adapt. 

*This is a huge topic and we are only touching the surface. 

6. Create spaces that allow for organic knowledge transfer

Having a broad generational range in your workforce is a huge boon for any employer. 

Older generations carry with them vast workplace experiences, while younger generations offer new and unique perspectives. As a result, you need to create a space that allows for multi-directional knowledge transfer. 

Knowledge transfer is stifled in environments that keep people separated (think traditional office booths). 

This is one of the reasons why collaborative spaces are so important. They’re natural environments where people of all ages, experiences and seniority levels can come together to work, share knowledge and develop. 

7. Face mental health issues head-on

One in three 18- to 24-year-olds report symptoms of mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, compared to one in four in 2000. 

Not only this, but one in four adults experiences at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any given year. 

We are facing a turbulent, ever-changing world. People are more disaffected and more worried about the future than ever before; employee wellbeing has never been as important as it is right now. 

If you want all people in your employ to thrive, you need to address mental health issues head on. Create wellbeing initiatives, consult with individuals to learn exactly what they need, and make sure that suggestions are acted upon in a timely manner. 

8. Have a rock-solid set of values (and demonstrate them!)

Organisational values are often decided on by the board, popped on a website, then promptly forgotten about. 

You need to ensure that your organisation lives and breathes its values. 

Your values aren’t what’s on your sales PowerPoint, it’s about what happens in your office, how your people feel and how your business is perceived. 

How are you currently instilling your values? Is it working? Put thought into how your values are actively lived, seek feedback on your values and how well they fit into your organisation.

9. Create an environment that people want to work in

Leesman Index (an index that measures the employee workplace experience by surveying the people who use it each day) stats show that offices at home score higher than even the highest quality global offices. 

This means that before your workplace can compete with working from home, it will need to be commute worthy; it needs to be worth the costs of transport, parking, childcare, pet care, et cetera. Your workplace needs to offer the magical ingredients of purpose + place

In short, an employee will be happier if they have the tools to do their job. If it’s easier for them to work from home, then they’re not going to be happy at work. 

The same principle applies to prospective employees. Your workspace needs a “wow” factor – it needs to create that “I really want to work here” vibe.

This means that the workspace you provide needs to cater to the emotional, social and environmental needs of your people, needs that are often changeable depending on a person’s age, background and skillset. 

If you want high-personality individuals, you need to create a space that attracts them.

At the end of the day, your workplace needs to reflect your values and make them clear. Not every workspace needs to be bright colours and astroturf; it needs to be right for your people, which brings us full circle back to…

Workplace consultancy – the only way to understand your organisation’s unique DNA

Without a People & Place study, you’ll have no idea where to start when looking to improve your organisation’s recruitment & retention strategies. 

Chances are you have a broad spectrum of people working for your organisation. It is incredibly difficult to get a solid understanding of their wants and needs. 

This is the core of our Workplace Consultancy service. It’s our job to map your route to successful workplace outcomes with clarity and precision, helping you build a holistic understanding of the relationship between your people, place and processes. 

It’s time to rise to modern challenges facing your organisation. When you’re ready, talk to our specialist consultants. 

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