Future of work HR

HR tips for managing your 4-generation workforce

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During the recent Workday Journey XL event in Amsterdam, I hosted a roundtable 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 at the table for participants from companies including Shell, Rabobank and Mitsubishi Motors Europe. The four generations currently active in the workplace today are:

  • Baby Boomers 1946 – 1964
  • Gen X 1965 – 1976
  • Gen Y & Millennials 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 and 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, pushing 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 on real-time data including a view of the skills matrix of the business. This highlights where skills exist, where the business will need them and 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, largely, 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. Most important is the ability to work easily. The consensus from the roundtable is that we all want a consumer-like technology experience at work, not just the younger ones. If people are to host conference calls from home or to use collaboration tools, for example, these need to work – all 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 & Channels of choice: Are we ready to engage?

While there is no blueprint for the workplace of the future; yours 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
  • Gen Y & Millennials – 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 do these technologies have? 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 will make no difference. It’s how your organization integrates them into HR and wider business processes that 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 and, by making them easy to access and with rapid responses by applying machine learning and algorithms to address common employee questions, you’re also making employee interaction with you easy. Interactions create data. Automation not only speeds everything up, it ensures that this data and the processing of it is highly accurate. From this, HR intelligence and be pulled, analyzed and shared with the business to plan for the short, mid and long term.

The conclusion

The consensus of the roundtable is that already the workplace experience will be different for each employee. No two people are the same and, therefore, why the future of work is so exciting. With the right technology and HR processes set up, as employees, we will literally be able to choose how we work. Of course, not all business types can operate without people on site, in-store, driving vehicles, or treating people, for example, but the great difference is how people can engage with their employers and take control of their work life experience, thanks to digital HR. This discussion is far from over. In fact, it’s only just beginning. The future of work, and it’s multi-generational, multi-cultural and multiple opportunities for people as we start working side-by-side with machines is very exciting. 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!