The modern workplace is a diverse mix of youthful enthusiasm and innovation alongside the wisdom of more experienced workers.
With businesses now represented by as many as four – or even five – generations along with constant advances in technology to investigate and implement, it is more challenging than ever for managers to deal with the different needs of their workforce while building a successful and sustainable business.
Training, development and flexibility is essential
Needing to retool workforces is not a new business concept but in recent times the need to keep up with technology has meant upskilling has become more important in the modern office.
A recent report by PwC highlighted the growing importance of upskilling existing workforces to deal with the skills gap, while a separate report found that the UK economy could benefit from as much as £80bn a year by employing older workers and teaching them new skills.
Understanding the needs of this new attitude towards work requires a shift in mind set among managers and, quite simply, those in leadership positions need to put more effort into finding out what kind of things their employees value in the workplace.
Our own research for instance has found that, taking higher salaries out of the equation, 35% of workers aged 35-44 and 41% of 45-54 year olds value flexible work environments as the most important aspect of workplace happiness.
The same research also found that one in 10 workers aged 45-54 still value the prospect of career progression and want to learn new skills at work.
Promote brand loyalty
A consequence of the UK’s current skills gap is that employees now have much more power when it comes to who they work for, and employers are under more pressure to provide the kind of environment that meets what their workforce expects.
Promoting more training and development opportunities for example is becoming more important with a quarter of 25-34 year olds, and 20% of 18-24 year olds expecting better chances for career progression from employers.
Considering that 65% of 18-24 year olds think nothing of leaving a role within a year if they don’t like the environment, it shows how much effort employers must now put in to promoting more loyalty within their business.
While there is a challenge in meeting the expectations of multiple generations at the same time, the opportunities do exist to do just that. Considering that older workers value being useful to a business for longer, and younger people are eager to learn and advance, using an older workforce to train their younger counterparts is the obvious, and simple, solution.
However, our research suggests many businesses are failing to satisfy the needs of their workforce, with nearly a quarter (24%) of all workers currently feeling that their skills and experience is being wasted.
This is particularly true of the female part of the workplace, with 26% feeling underused at work, compared to 21% of men.
Maybe more worrying, considering they are more likely to leave a business quickly, 23% of 18-24 year olds and 27% of 25-34 year olds think their skills are not being put to best use in the workplace.
The key to satisfying the needs of multiple generations is for managers and business owners to remain flexible in their approach and culture. Modern businesses must be able to adapt to suit the needs of the workforce and those which don’t risk falling behind the competition.
The theory of a successful modern workplace
Understanding and meeting the needs of different generation can make or break the success of a business.
The most successful businesses know how to create a culture that embraces change and meets the personal morals and ethics of its workforce.
Attitudes are changing and the ‘squeeze customers for all you can’ culture no longer fits with the modern workforce, and it hasn’t for some time.
Flexible working is important, without doubt, but to retain a motivated workforce, businesses must be willing to embrace an ethical attitude and maintain the highest possible standards or risk losing their best people to competitors.