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Multi-generational workplaces will ‘lead to innovation’

But nearly half of UK managers are ill equipped to manage '4G' teams

25 March 2014

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

An emerging multi-generational workplace will create positive tension leading to innovation, the CIPD has said.

Its survey of 2,691 employees and 935 employers in the UK found that employees are far more likely to recognise the opportunities for innovation created by age diverse teams than their employers.

Two fifths of employees (41 per cent) identified access to new ideas as a key benefit, but only a small minority of employers (seven per cent) cited greater innovation as an advantage of age diverse teams.

"Fears of intergenerational tensions in the workplace couldn't be further from the truth," commented Claire McCartney, Research Adviser at the CIPD.

"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."

However, she noted that "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."

A report published earlier this month by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) predicts that '4G' workplaces with four generations of staff will become increasingly commonplace as people delay retiring until their 70s or even 80s.

"If four-generation workplaces become commonplace, it will be the first time in human history that this has happened," commented Toby Peyton-Jones, HR director of Siemens' UK and North-West Europe operations and a commissioner at UKCES.

"We'd be remiss if we didn't look at the changes shaping our world at the moment and speculate about how these might influence our future."

In the professional and business services sector, the UKCES has suggested that portfolio and client management skills will be in high demand in future.

"The demand for highly specialised skills will increase and continuous updating of skills becomes even more crucial in an extremely competitive labour market," the report says.

The CIPD's research found that many businesses are still ill prepared to capitalise on the opportunities that an age diverse workforce can bring.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of employers said that line managers are not trained in managing teams of different generations and that their organisations have no plans to change this.

Just under a third (31 per cent) of employers said that they react to issues relating to the ageing population as they arise rather than having a strategy in place.

In addition, 34 per cent said their organisation does nothing to ensure it has access to enough skilled and diverse people of all ages.

A fifth (22 per cent) of employers said their organisations have no provisions in place to ensure employees of all ages develop and keep their skills up to date.

"Businesses must be much more proactive," said McCartney. "We know that the multi-generational workplace is on the horizon, and businesses need to act now if they want to be prepared."




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