Can’t We All Just Get Along? Opportunities for Managing Employees Across Generations

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PeaceTraditionalists. Baby Boomers. Generation X. Millennials. Generation Z. Today’s employment environment is more complex than ever before, filled with these five distinct generations that each bring their own unique sets of skills, competencies, perspectives, and developmental opportunities. Coupled with a global business focus, multinational employers and HR departments now face new and daunting talent management challenges.

However, by finding creative approaches to managing this complex multigenerational workforce effectively, you and your company will be well-positioned to prosper in these challenging times.

Generational Challenges

The reality is that some generations are just easier to manage than others. According to the results of our survey of 250 senior-level global HR professionals, the generations that are the most difficult for HR leaders to handle are millennials (Gen. Y) and Baby Boomers.

Why? Primarily because younger workers are pushing strongly for greater flexibility in how, when, and where they work, while employees at the other end of the age spectrum tend to advocate for more regular work patterns with predictable schedules and locations. Juggling these conflicting preferences is a challenge for more than one in five (22 percent) HR leaders.

In addition to differing work environment preferences, HR leaders cite a significant digital skills gap as a tremendous barrier to hiring the right talent, with more than 21 percent reporting difficulties in hiring candidates with the technical understanding, competence, and confidence their company needs. The skills gap extends beyond digital capabilities, with 94 percent of companies reporting that they struggle to recruit candidates with the right general skills as well.

Establishing a robust leadership pipeline continues to stymie HR leaders, despite the recognition that identifying and nurturing talent today can fill the leadership gaps of tomorrow. In fact, nearly 10 percent of respondents indicated that they are concerned about their ability to prepare for their future leadership needs.

People Data to the Rescue

With such a high degree of uncertainty and complexity around how to hire diverse multigenerational teams that can function well and perform at their best, today’s businesses are trying to determine how to optimize their talent management operations in order to improve business outcomes. One area that many are turning to, according to our research, is people science.

KeysMore than 66 percent of companies consider blended data and people analytics to be an important factor in their ability to manage HR practices in a productive and strategic manner. Also critical to HR’s ability to improve the management of a global cross-generational workforce is a deep understanding of digital HR, behavioral economics, and cognitive computing. After all, greater visibility into their people will help companies establish more accurate views of their diverse talent pools, enabling improved talent mobility, leadership pipeline creation, and talent acquisition.

Considering these new data requirements, it should come as no surprise, that nearly one-third (29.2 percent) of HR leaders have hired data analysts or people scientists to help them extract and analyze the information necessary to gain a clearer understanding of their workforces. These people scientists include mathematicians and data analysts who are experienced in evaluating data not only from HR sources but also through contextual information gleaned from multiple internal and external sources. Using predictive analytics to anticipate future people outcomes and creating visualization tools that can help HR communicate key findings, trends, and patterns, people scientists are playing a more critical role in helping companies make people-related business decisions.

Even with this dawning understanding of the need for people analytics to inform business strategy, there is still work to be done. Forty-two percent of our respondents say they have only partial visibility into their workforce, while more than 50 percent feel they do not have a full understanding of their employees. As the hiring and development needs of today’s multigenerational workforce become more complex, detailed and timely data about this diverse talent pool becomes even more vital.

When a company has a clear understanding of the skills and gaps within its workforce, it can implement proactive changes that will drive optimized performance. As organizations continue to be challenged by the disparate work experiences, world views, and expectations of their multinational and multigenerational workforces, they need effective strategies and resources to capitalize on the diverse capabilities of these workers. By embracing data and analytics as the foundation of talent acquisition, workforce planning, and talent management efforts, organizations can position themselves to meet the changing needs of today’s workers while addressing their most critical business challenges.

For the full results of our multigenerational workforce survey, click here.

Adam Hale is the CEO of Fairsail, which makes cloud HR information systems and solutions for multinational organizations.

By Adam Hale