11 Jan The Power of Multigenerational Workplaces
In this article, David Clack, Marketing Director for Ricoh UK and Executive Sponsor for Multigenerational Workplaces, outlines the challenges facing organisations and actions Ricoh UK is taking to improve age inclusion.
The age conversation has taken on a new tone in the last five years. It’s an old adage that every generation is suspicious of the next while rolling its eyes at its predecessor. But today, there’s a new generational friction between what’s now simply shorthanded as ‘the Gens’ – Gen Z, Gen X, Gen Y, the list goes on.
The media often exacerbate conversations like these, but it’s clear that a new set of language and assumptions about age is touching all corners of society. A recent study by HubSpot found that 60% of organisations in the US are experiencing increased age polarisation; while these are US numbers, the UK often follows suit.
What can organisations do to ease Multigenerational Workplaces?
There are now four generations in the workforce simultaneously, a first in modern history. Within Ricoh UK, we have apprentices working side-by-side with people who have been with us for over four decades – it’s one of our core strengths – but if we fail to create an environment where everyone can thrive, we risk losing out on a range of benefits.
We have already started looking at these issues and put in place apprenticeship schemes and career development programmes which champion multigenerational talent. Likewise, we have flexible working in place to make work ‘work’ for all.
The benefits of championing a multigenerational workplace
Creating cultures and workplaces that nurture inclusion across all generations is essential for employee experience and our company’s overall success. It will benefit us in invaluable ways, opening up a more robust talent pipeline, sustainable succession planning, better people retention and increased business resilience.
As a growing digital services company; we also lead with inclusion to ensure our people have the skills, knowledge and training they need to thrive in the digital world. Technology like automation empowers people regardless of difference, we want our teams to feel prepared to reap the benefits of technology and help our customers do the same. In any organisation, people are the keystone to unlocking true digital maturity.
Launching our Multigenerational Workplace Affinity Group
This year, alongside my role as Marketing Director for Ricoh UK, I am taking on a new position as the Executive Sponsor for the Multigenerational Workplace. As part of the role, I’ll lead our affinity group, welcoming employees of all ages into the discussion.
We’ll explore assumptions, biases and stereotypes and share stories and experiences. Our long-term goal is to support our People & ESG team in introducing initiatives and shaping policies to bridge the generational gap.
As part of the group’s launch, we’ve been considering the challenges facing us when opening up the multigenerational conversation. Here are some key points we’ve been discussing; it might help you consider your organisation’s needs.
The paradox between age and the individual
Age is at once more straightforward and more complex than other diversity strands like gender, ethnicity and disability. Every individual can be excluded or discriminated against based on their age.
We can also assume several things about each age without edging into unfair or unconscious bias. For example, we will all begin our careers, and most of us will retire. In both circumstances, there will likely be some commonality between individual needs.
But to lead with inclusion, our approach has to be centered around the individual.
Different ages have different priorities
Employees span the full range of life stages and experiences within a multigenerational workplace. Some may be raising young children, while others caring for ailing parents. Some may be purchasing their first home, while others are researching retirement options. Through the work lens, some people are at the grassroots of their careers, and others are thinking about winding down.
We’re focusing on ensuring we don’t prioritise and homogenise one single lived experience. It’s crucial not to assume that age means someone will be experiencing all the same options, concerns and feelings at different life stages. For instance, apprenticeships are open for all ages.
Intersectionality between other diversity strands
It is often not just age that matters when thinking about multi generations. Intersectionality with gender, race or other characteristics also plays a crucial role.
Research covering nine European countries found that access and uptake of training opportunities were affected by the interaction of both age and gender, with older female workers being the most disadvantaged. A separate study found there is also some correlation between age and ethnicity regarding downward mobility in the workplace.
Culturally, we’ve also noticed a disparity between men and women requesting part-time contracts, whether it be to cover childcare, look after family, prepare for retirement or simply by personal choice.
Through our Affinity Group meetings, we want to work closely with our colleagues involved in the gender, ethnicity and disability conversation to understand more about this factor and whether it should be a key objective of our Ricoh UK action plan in the future.
Starting the conversation
After spending time this Christmas with my two Gen Z children and my parents, who are classed as baby boomers but would never use the terminology themselves, I am looking forward to beginning the multigenerational conversation at work in 2024.
From my experience, the younger generation is mindful, earnest and independent. They’re unlike any generation before them, masters of an unlimited knowledge source and window to the world.
Equally, I see the other end of the spectrum with my parents. They’re developing their technology skills daily to communicate with me and the rest of the family. And with openness, they both try to understand society, not always getting it right but always trying, nevertheless.
Whichever ‘Gen’ you fall into, as individuals, we all have a unique strength to bring to the world and the people we work with – if there’s one goal of our Affinity Group, it’s bringing that idea to life.