Generational tensions: The Ageing Workforce vs. Generation Y

Posted on 10 Oct 2013 by Tim Brown

Neil Pickering, Marketing Manager UK, Kronos discusses the generational tensions which are currently facing the workforce and what steps can be taken to ensure all employees, regardless of age are fully engaged.

It was interesting to read KPMG’s recent report which examined the tension between the ageing workforce and Gen Y workers, as older colleagues are postponing retirement plans and intend to work for longer. The younger generation of workers see this as a direct threat on their career progression. In light of the new figures released by Towers Watson, there is still a huge concern that business organisations are failing to take advantage of older workers’ skills and experience.

In line with these findings, much has been spoken in recent times about the UK’s ageing population and the impact that it will have on employees, employers and the economy. The KPMG report suggests that only 20% of respondents believe employees will want to retain older colleagues, in order to learn from their experience. As such, employers need to consider the changing nature of the workforce.

Skills shortages

In a report released by Talentsmoothie, it was revealed that during the next decade the employment industry will see 13.5 million job vacancies in the UK, with only 7 million school and college leavers which will leave an enormous gap that will need to be plugged. This reaffirms the notion that there is an imperative need for younger employees to learn from their peers.

This prediction suggests that the future skills shortages should and will be filled with ‘older workers’ as this will provide a proven business benefit by fostering an environment of learning and knowledge sharing. It has often been said that the older generation of employees are the main untapped source of hidden labour talent. Organisations must equip themselves to recruit and retain them, for the growth of their business.

Technology requirements for Gen Y

The consumerisation of IT has led to Gen Y employees having an expectation for business apps to be as intuitive as mainstream platforms such as Facebook and Google. These expectations show how much technology has grown, and how the younger generation almost see the interface of business apps to be imperative to their working life.

These requirements for Gen Y employees may also be seen as a factor in causing generational tensions, with older colleagues not willing to embrace new technology trends within their organisations.

Gen Y employees will one day become the decision-makers in UK businesses. They have grown up with the thought that IT just works and doesn’t necessarily involve lots of equipment, support or maintenance. The next generation of employees (Gen Z) will be even more advanced and there will perhaps be a time when Gen Y will face the same challenges their peers are experiencing today. It will be interesting to see of generational tensions will continue to exist in the years ahead.

Employers must align themselves with this trend in order to stimulate the Gen Y employees with an innovative environment, as they have grown up in a fast paced environment where technological enhancements arrive thick and fast. Not only will these employees then be more accustomed to the processes in place, but it can increase morale and enhance productivity.

Mobility benefits

Technological advancements in workforce management tools has increased the ability for Gen Y workers to interact with their employer through mobile devices. These tools allow them to book holiday requests, trade shifts with colleagues and review benefit balances to name just a few. This process will enhance productivity, as managers are able to manage their employees ‘from the floor’ almost instantaneously, with minimal admin.

Many organisations are starting to realise that long term business strategies need to take into account the changing demographics of the workforce. The job of managing people’s work schedules, regardless of age will require a shift in attitude which needs to start evolving now. The underlying message from many people’s minds, and a report released by Talentsmoothie, is whether these gaps can be merged and skills gaps can be filled.

How Technology can play a part in this process

Technology will play its part in facilitating the changes required in helping businesses align with the changing nature of the workforce. The ability to deploy the best possible resource, in the right place at the right time can have a significant impact on business performance. From improved quality in production, faster time to market and better customer service, the impact of effective workforce management can drive revenue and customer satisfaction.

However, as part of this it’s also the role of the employer to put aside any prejudice that still surrounds this group and recognise the ageing workforce as an opportunity for change rather than a problem.

Organisations must be prepared to implement technological advancements such as business apps to cater to Gen Y employees, but also scheduling tactics to deploy the right employees to tasks they will excel in, regardless of age. Whether the employee is 16 or 60, software can help put the right employee in the right place at the right time to meet business demand, taking into account their experiences, skills and preferences. This is something managers should seriously consider to cope with the ever-changing workforce landscape.