Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Beware the generation stereotypes

Managers to benefit from learning multi-gen skills

Research by Penna, the global HR services group, highlights how businesses may be ill-prepared for the future multigenerational workforce, as nearly half of managers (49%) said they tend to take exactly the same approach to management with all of their employees – regardless of age.

With the Future of Work: Jobs and Skills in 2030 [1]report by UKCES highlighting that the number of economically active people aged 65 and over is projected to increase by one third over the next decade, and four generations are due to be working together in one workplace, Penna’s research calls into question whether organisations and managers are prepared for such a seismic shift in demographic.

The research found that for managers who are not currently adapting their style for different aged employees, almost half (46%) say they don’t need to as they are confident in their management skills, regardless of age differences within their team. Yet in contrast, more than one in three employees (39%) agreed it was important for managers to change their style, as they feel different employee ages will be more responsive as a result.

Despite managers not changing their style to differing age groups, they do still hold opinions as to what motivates and engages certain groups within the workplace and stereotypes still exist around common workplace behaviours – which aren’t always aligned with employee views. For example, more than a third (34%) of 55-65 year olds said they wanted their development potential to be recognised through receiving informal praise and recognition - whereas managers are most likely to describe 18-24 year olds as seeking regular feedback and appraisal.

Managers’ attitudes to setting challenges for employees are also mismatched with what employees actually want when it comes to certain age groups. Almost a quarter of managers (24%) said they would set more challenges for 18-24 year olds, which drops to just 17% for employees aged 55-65 and 15% for those 66 and above. In contrast employees aged 55-65 were the most likely to say they seek challenging work than any other age category.

Penny de Valk, Managing Director of Penna Talent Practice, said: “With four generations in the workplace, the age demographic of who we work with is changing dramatically and we need to be mindful not to hold on to stereotypes that may no longer apply to today’s workforce. The talent pool could include those aged 18-80 so it’s imperative that managers let go of any unconscious bias and understand what genuinely motivates and engages their entire team. If they have the skills and confidence to do this, it will make a considerable difference to productivity and give them competitive advantage for years to come.”

[1]Future of Work: Jobs and Skills in 2030: