Future of work HR

HR tips for managing your 4 generation workforce

By Anita Lettink

During a recent Workday event in Amsterdam, I hosted a round table on the topic of the four-generation workplace and the impact this is having on HR.

As it turns out, this is a hot topic. Extra chairs were required for the number of participants wanting to join. Attendees from companies including Shell, Rabobank and Mitsubishi Motors Europe were there.

The four generations currently active in the workplace today are:

  • Baby Boomers 1946 – 1964
  • Gen X 1965 – 1976
  • Millennials (Gen Y) 1977-1997
  • Gen Z 1997 onwards

There are three key topics of interest around these groups.

Company Culture: Do we think alike?

We asked the question: Do the four generations share the same view on company culture or are their expectations different? The answer was yes, we definitely see a difference.

Generation Z and Millennials look at performance and career development very differently to Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers are used to annual reviews and being set expectations and objectives. They are very much used to being ‘told what to do’. Their attitude to reviews is focused on reward rather than development.

The younger workforce has a very different approach. Our digital generations want to be involved in their career development. They like regular, project by project feedback. They want frequent conversations and assurance, not just from their managers, but from the wider business.

For HR, this is a huge move away from the traditional focus on compliance to quality conversations. Continuous Performance Management (CPM) allows HR teams to introduce employee driven processes, tailored to short-term goals. This pushes the focus to people development and education, rather than measurement.

This is hugely motivating for employees. For the business, CPM is also great. It generates lots of real-time data including a view of the skills matrix of the business. It highlights where skills exist and where the business will need them. In addition it highlights who and how to develop people to ensure the workforce is able to support the future needs of the business.

Flexible working. Do we agree this is a good thing?

While there are some differences in the generations, for the most part the four generations are open to and united in the advantages and benefits of flexible working.

Most like the option to work from home or other locations, whether or not they take this up. More importantly is the ability to work easily. The consensus from the round table is that we all want a ‘consumer-esque’ technology experience at work. This is not just confined to younger workers.

If people have to host conference calls from home or to use collaboration tools, these need to work – all of the time. Many also want to work for an organization that’s sustainable and considers the environment. Reducing the amount of road and air travel enabled by great technology, supports this talent expectation.

For more reading on the digital workplace, my colleague, Simon Porter wrote a great blog explaining; What is the Digital Workplace? I recommend a read when you have a moment.

HR Bots and channels of choice: Are we ready to engage?

While there is no blueprint for the workplace of the future. You may be a building, virtual or a mix of the two, your choice of HR processes and technology will have a vital role to play in success.

Get the technology infrastructure and processes right and you will see employee engagement and productivity rocket. Stepping back for a moment, we looked at the workplace technologies our four generations ‘grew up’ with at work.

  • Baby Boomers – Internal mail envelopes, written forms, desk phones, call centers
  • Gen X -ERP, email, intranet, self-service apps
  • Millennials (Gen Y) – Chat, SaaS, portals, mobile
  • Gen Z – Artificial intelligence, chat bots, social media, analytics…. and the innovation continues

It was the latter set of tools that were of most interest in the discussion. What impact are these technologies having? How are they changing HR processes and the employee experience?

Most large organizations have invested to a greater or lesser degree in these technologies, but just having them makes no difference. It’s how your organization integrates them into HR and wider business processes. This will have the greatest impact on performance.

By opening channels of choice up to employees you’re enabling people to choose how and when they access and use HR tools.

Machine learning and algorithms allow rapid responses to common employee questions. By doing so you’re making employee interaction easier. Consequently, you will get more interactions and interactions create data.

Automation not only speeds things up, it ensures that data and the processing of it is highly accurate. From this, HR intelligence can be analyzed and shared with the business. This enables the business to plan for the short, mid and long term.

The conclusion

The consensus of the round table is that already the workplace experience will be different for each employee. No two people are the same. It is why the future of work is so exciting.

With the right technology and HR processes employees will be able to choose how they work. Of course, not all businesses can operate without people on site. However, the great difference is how people can engage with their employers and take control of their work life balance thanks to digital HR.

This discussion is far from over. In fact, it’s only just beginning. The future of work is very exciting. Multiple generations and cultures open up a wide range of opportunities for people as we start working side-by-side with machines.

I would love to hear from you about how you see the future workplace planning out.

Today’s Gen Zs are today’s Baby Boomers of tomorrow. What is exciting and new today will be the internal mail envelope of tomorrow. What lies ahead? I can’t wait to see.

At NGA HR, we have some great innovation going on using all the above technologies

Why not take a virtual tour of our HR Innovation Hub now, or join us in person at one of our physical hubs around the world. In these centers, with our clients and partners, we’re co-creating the future of HR and wow, it looks exciting!