Naomi Thompson, Head of Organisational Development at Benenden Health, shares her top tips on how to support a multigenerational workforce effectively.
Today’s workforce is increasingly becoming more age-diverse, with more workers staying in employment into their later years and delaying retirement to secure a better financial future for themselves and their loved ones.
This means that many people could be working for well over 50 years of their lives and it is not uncommon to see a business with employees aged from 16 to 75 years old. Whilst a number of workplaces offer wellbeing packages that are designed to benefit all generations, there needs to be some flexibility to ensure that you can support, attract and retain the talent and skills that your company will need to succeed.
Here, I share five top tips on how to better support your multi-generational workforce:
Recognise and acknowledge the multi-generational split
Many companies decide to not acknowledge the multi-generational split within the workforce in an attempt to not offend or segregate any employees based on their age. However, in order to ensure that you can understand the needs of everyone, you must first acknowledge that an individual’s needs and expectations may differ depending on their age and the stage of life that they are currently in.
A one size fits all approach to healthcare can mean that no one is happy. For example, older generations may require more ergonomic working set ups, whilst younger generations may be more interested in financial support or gym memberships. Most importantly, however, don’t stereotype and assume people’s needs – actually speak to them and ask.
Communication is key
While devising a new strategy to support your multigenerational workforce, it would be beneficial to give all employees the chance to tell you what they think and what they would like to see from you as a company, and as an employee.
As workplaces begin to think about their plans for returning their team to the workplace safely and securely, this is a great opportunity to get your team involved in building a new culture. A recent survey, carried out by Benenden Health, revealed that more than half a million UK employees could be made to return to normal workplaces before they are comfortable doing so – indicating a real need for employers to talk more to their teams and find out what they feel comfortable doing going forward, as well as what would support them in the future.
The nature of multi-generational workforce also means that people’s needs and expectations will change over time, which is why is it vital that employees are regularly able to voice their needs and businesses are able to adapt accordingly.
You could arrange a time for an open team brainstorm, an ‘ideas box’ for anonymous thoughts or an online survey with questions for the team to share thoughts.
Be more flexible and understanding
Throughout this uncertain time, many employees have been forced to juggle different areas of their lives, whether that was to take on additional childcare and home-schooling responsibilities or helping care for isolating elderly relatives. We know that certain age groups may be more likely to require flexibility for childcare, whilst others may still need to isolate or continue other caring duties.
In a multi-generational workforce particularly, it is important to acknowledge that everyone’s circumstances are different and just because some people may be ready to get back to the old ways of working, others may be keen to permanently adopt new practices, such as more home working or flexible hours.
Ultimately, it will be different for everyone and as many companies look at how to return to the physical place of work it falls to employers to be understanding about these individual circumstances and recognise the daunting nature of the transition.
This approach will still be vital even once we leave the pandemic behind and the businesses who succeed will be those who show flexibility and adaptability to cater for individual circumstances and healthcare requirements.
Embrace technology but also offer alternatives
For many people, technology and social media is part of everyday life – keeping friends and family just a click away at all times or constantly scrolling down social feeds. For others, technology can feel quite new and less familiar.
While many businesses must use technology in some way, it is always worth talking to employees to ensure that they are comfortable and to help improve their confidence in using technology. Often, the worries stem from the unknown and therefore by offering the adequate training and support, those individuals who may have previously felt concern at using technology in their work, may realise that it is in fact there often to make our lives easier.
At the same time, it is also beneficial to offer alternative methods of communication and resources, including any wellbeing programmes to ensure these can be utilised by all employees, regardless of their particular circumstance.
Encourage exercise and a healthy lifestyle
Whatever age you are, one of the foundations of good mental wellbeing is good physical health.
Keeping active reduces the likelihood of the depression and anxiety that can be exacerbated by current circumstances. Simply encouraging employees to make the most of the opportunity to get some fresh air and exercise each day can be of huge benefit for their mental health and ultimately business performance.
Again, however, it is vitally important that employers consider every single member of their workforce. Make sure that all of your employees have an option that they are comfortable with – a Zoom Pilates class might be great for many, but a socially-distanced walk may be more appropriate for others. In showing you are considering the needs of employees from different generations, engagement, loyalty and productivity are only going to improve.
Ultimately, the most successful wellbeing programmes will be the ones that recognise that a diverse and multigenerational workforce may be complex to manage, but is ultimately a challenge worth investing time and effort in. A failure to address these multigenerational needs and expectations can marginalise certain demographics and impact on engagement, productivity and employee retention.
For further advice and to find out more about how to manage a multigenerational workforce, head to: https://www.benenden.co.uk/be-healthy/work/managing-the-wellbeing-needs-of-a-multigenerational-workforce/