Something I’ve noticed from both running a company for 30 odd years and working with numerous clients during this time is that we’ve all become a lot more aware of the need to create a workplace that works for all employees.
By this I mean that employers are seeing real benefits when they ensure that everyone has a great environment to work in. However, what’s ‘great’ for some people isn’t great for others, and therefore we need to think carefully about our workforce and what they need to be productive, do their job and enjoy coming to work every day.
Catering For A Diverse Workforce: Who’s In Your Team?
When considering how to cater for a diverse workforce we need to identify specific groups of people within the organisation and ensure that their needs are met.
We can start by looking at different departments and the roles they do. There will be obvious practical considerations such as equipment and facilities needed for those teams, but also you should factor in atmosphere, noise levels and other elements that could either help or hinder the team’s performance.
At the same time when planning an office – both layout and design – you’ll want to ensure that there’s synergy between different departments: don’t fall into the trap of creating an amazing space for your creative team and expecting accounts to sit in a glorified broom cupboard!
Then we should consider the individual people within those departments and across the organisation as a whole. In my experience a key differentiator is age. Different generations need to be catered for within the workplace and those employers who do this well benefit from increased performance and a happy team.
5 Generations In The Workplace
It’s not impossible that your organisation currently has up to five generations in the workplace at this time.
You may have:
- iGen – the youngest group in the workplace, aged 20 and younger,
- The Millennials – born between 1977 to 1995; the generation that came of age in the Nineties and Noughties,
- Generation X – born between 1965 to 1976,
- The Baby Boomers – born between 1946 to 1964,
- Traditionalists – born before 1946; as more people choose to work past retirement age this generation continues to contribute to the workforce.
These groups are often described in different ways, and dates of birth can vary depending on your sources. However, roughly speaking your workforce will fall into one of these generational groups, and it’s likely that they will want to work in different ways.
This may be a generalisation, no doubt you will have some individuals who really don’t fit any stereotype, but from talking to CEOs and senior managers it appears that there are key generational traits.
One reason for this is that people enter the workforce at different points in history, gaining experience at different times, and this will inevitably influence their working habits and preferred work environment. For example, most Baby Boomers will have generally worked traditional office hours at their desk for most of their working lives. This may explain why some senior managers are sceptical about remote and flexible working, believing that these workers are not putting the hours in.
Another factor is what motivates individuals at different times of the life, and how this has changed for different generations. The iGen generation is often defined as being one that prioritises ‘experiences’ over money or material goods and therefore creating a workplace that delivers on this level could be a great employee engagement tool. However, your Traditionalists may be find this an unwanted distraction, preferring an environment that allows them to focus on their role without having to use a slide to get downstairs!
Technology also plays a major part in defining how different generations work. That’s not to stereotype the older generations as being digitally naïve, but just to highlight how different generations use technology. Key differences could centre on the choice of device used for specific tasks, with the younger generation using mobile devices more than older people.
However, your workforce is made up of individuals and there’s every chance you have Millennials who more closely resemble the Traditionalist stereotype and vice versa. Therefore, when catering for a multi-generational workforce, the emphasis must be on providing choice.
Give your employees different options and flexibility so they can work in a way that suits them. Coworking spaces and hotdesks, informal meeting areas, quiet zones and breakout spaces, as well as traditional desks and seating, all create a workplace that works for everyone.