Thursday, June 19, 2014

The multi-generational company

The impending demographic changes in society and economy have raised our awareness of the importance of intergenerational structural changes. In 2000, only 15,1% of the population of Switzerland were over 64 years old, in 2012 it was already 17,4%, and in the year 2030 it will be 24,2%, according to the Federal Statistical Office.

These demographic developments presumably also exacerbate the current shortage of skilled workforce. The Federal Council has approved financial support measures to mitigate this development for 2013-2016, which primarily focus on education, research and the promotion of Switzerland’s innovative power. In addition to the financial measures, the Federal Council has also addressed crosscutting issues such as equal opportunities and sustainable development as important aspects.
Particular attention is given to promoting the reconciliation of work and family life, the integration of older employees, the voluntarily prolonged working life and to occupational retraining. For the future of working life, the different technical skills and socialization of the various age groups among employees are particularly relevant.

The generation of digital natives is now entering working life, and they not only have better technical skills but also largely new type of communication and networking capabilities.Companies are challenged by the aforementioned demographic changes on several levels. In terms of strategy, the attractiveness of companies is becoming an increasingly important factor. In the future, companies have to work towards being attractive for different generations of employees simultaneously. For this, they have to know, understand and consider the skills and values of all generations of employees during recruitment, in leadership, development and retention alike. By this companies can enable the different generations to complement each other’s skills and values and enhance diversity, resulting in more efficient working processes.

At present, the main question is how the generation Y (born between 1981 and 1995) is changing the requirements for companies. Generation Y has a high level of education in both women and men in Switzerland. Many already have international experience and are socially well connected due to their communication skills as digital natives. 

A recent quantitative opinion poll of almost 12’000 Swiss students by universum, a consulting and marketing company working in employer branding, has asked what aspects matter the most to this generation: an interesting job, the working atmosphere in the company, the promotion by superiors and career development opportunities. It is worth noting that about 40% of high school graduates plan to spend five years on their first employment. Thus generation Y is more focused on sustainability and loyalty towards their employers than previous generations of graduates who planned to leave their jobs after two years. 

The future leaders of generation Y place great value on an inspiring leadership style. For many, the company culture is more crucial for the selection of an employer than a high wage or social recognition, in contrast to the leaders of generation X. In particular, generation Y expects more individualized possibilities in terms of training, flexibility at the work place and work-life-balance than generation X. Despite the differences between these two generations, both usually coexist today in companies and should be able to work together smoothly. 

The intergenerational company that wants to stay an attractive employer in the future should therefore think about the following topics:

  • Management Development: Generation Y obviously puts a lot of importance on individual development and company culture. In practice, this requires not only continuous and individualized possibilities for generation Y, but at the same time also adapted offers for other generations. Only then the different expectations of the respective leadership generation can be met. Furthermore, new formats should be developed that consciously combine the different skills and experiences of the leadership generations. Along with the continuous development of professional skills, social and personal skills will become increasingly important. 
  • Individual career patterns: Careers with linear promotion patterns that still predominate today will loose importance due to the specific requirements of generation Y, but also due to the generation of baby boomers who are intended to remain in professional life longer. Combined training and coaching have to become essential measures to keep connecting and adapting the professional and leadership careers of the different generations. 
  • Flexibilisation of work: Due to the increasing demands of multiple roles in professional and personal life (child care and care of the elderly), flexible working models will gain importance in the future and replace the still predominant presenteeism of generation X. Companies are challenged to not only offer flexible working models, but to actively support their implementation with role models and consulting. 

See all global results of the study here:

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