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Embracing the multigenerational workforce

In just nine years, the first group of Millennials will turn 50, the first cohort of Generation X will turn 65, and thanks to the advances in science and technology, the first group of Baby Boomers will turn 85. 

By 2050, the ratio of those 65 and above to those within the working age group (15-64) is projected to reach two in five compared to 2018’s ratio of 1:4. 

Our ability to live longer has shifted the fundamental feature of our retirement model from “freedom from work” to “freedom to work.” Indeed, more people want to work past the traditional retirement age because they want and/or need to. 

Be it a financial, social, or philanthropic reason, the future of work is expected to evolve. 

Currently, most of the workplace transformation is done to accommodate the rising number of Millennials and Generation Z joining the workforce. Consequently, the older generation of employees may lose their sense of purpose, empowerment, and self. 

Hence, organizations have a responsibility to embrace a multigenerational workforce

A shift in assumptions 

A common assumption of the older generation of employees is that they have nothing of value to offer in the new technology-savvy and hybrid world of work. Yet, studies have shown that they have more professional and life experiences than the Millennials and Generation Z have. 

The reality is that the modern workplace is evolving faster than ever and organizations that wish to be future resilient must recruit techno-dexterous individuals who are also equipped with newer knowledge and skills. 

That said, a multigenerational workforce is also an essential element of the future of work. As such, organizations have to create a workplace that enables younger and older employees to cohesively integrate their skills, knowledge, and wisdom. 

This inclusive approach nudges employers to ensure all their employees have better and equal access to lifelong learning and development opportunities. 

Age has nothing to do with learning 

Masako Wakamiya became the world’s oldest known iPhone app developer when she developed the smartphone game, Hinadan at the ripe age of 81

An acquaintance of Wakamiya, who happened to be the president of an app development company in Japan, encouraged her to produce the game herself. With his guidance over Skype, she learned the necessary skills and knowledge to produce the app. Her success attracted the attention of many including Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. 

Wakamiya is a living example that age has nothing to do with learning, including the ability to be tech savvy. 

In fact, research shows that organizations that employ technologies designed to support adult learners are more likely to reap the benefits of an older workforce who feel empowered to work alongside their younger techno-dexterous counterparts. 

Diversity-friendly practices

Amid struggling to optimize the experiences and loyalty of their older employees, many organizations are also working to retain their younger talent. Therefore, organizations are forced to rethink some of their practices including their mentoring practices. 

Not only does an effective mentorship program create opportunities for colleagues to learn from one another, it closes the generational gap within the organization. 

The reverse mentoring program adopted by major organizations like Heineken, Estée Lauder, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) shows that diversity-friendly practices are necessary for an organization to embrace their multigenerational workforce. 

Eighty six percent of mentees, who are Heineken’s senior leaders, shared that they now intentionally connect with the next generation of talent to gain new skills and experiences.

The Millennial mentors of Estée Lauder’s knowledge-sharing portal, Dreamspace, allowed their older generation of employees to understand the impact of social media influencers on overall shopping experiences.

Additionally, the reverse mentoring program at PwC created a safe environment for the Millennial and Gen Z employees to ask their older colleagues and employers challenging questions and share their experiences. 

It is clear that we cannot change the demographic trends of the workforce but we can certainly change how we respond to them.

By embracing the multigenerational workforce, we can transform the disruptive trend into a multitude of impactful possibilities for employers and employees alike. 

Michelle Low
Michelle Low is a Malaysia-based writer and educator, with experience in interactive learning and archaeogaming.