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Multi-generational workforces give business competitive advantage

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

With the NZ Government predicting that a quarter of New Zealand’s workforce will be aged 55 or older by 2020 1 it seems Kiwis are more than willing to embrace age diversity at work and New Zealand businesses are reaping the rewards. In fact, according to Randstad New Zealand’s latest Workmonitor findings, 88 per cent of Kiwis preferring working as part of a multi- generational team (i.e. 10-15 years difference in age). Not only that, 83 per cent of us believe that companies with age-diverse workforces are better placed to come up with innovative ideas and solutions.

So, does age no longer matter in the workplace?

Nan Dow, Executive Practice Director of RiseSmart Australia and New Zealand - a Randstad company, said that given we are working in a more complex workplace environment, with many businesses managing up to five generations of workers, there’s much to be gained by striving for a workplace culture that brings out the best across generations. "These generational differences are quite literally the ‘future of work’ and having such a rich and diverse talent pool can be a huge advantage for businesses.

In order to create a positive culture that gets work done, businesses need to encourage employees to look beyond preconceived stereotypes and bias."

While most industries are on board with age diversity at work, the report revealed that some sectors are well ahead of the ‘curve’ when it came to embracing a multi-generational workplace. Right now, the industry sectors leading the age-diversity charge are ‘general business’ (95 per cent) followed by education (95 per cent) and construction (92 per cent).

Dow continues, "Findings showed that 85 per cent of Kiwis believe that collaboration between different generations is mutually beneficial. Industries and customers are diverse, so having an employee base

that reflects the end customer and can relate to their needs is obviously a competitive advantage to any business."

However, when it came to communication among age diverse workers, the main difference when working in a multi-generational workplace was communication styles.

Randstad New Zealand Country Director Katherine Swan comments, "Our study found that 75 percent of Kiwis believe the way we communicate is one of the biggest differences within multi-generational workforces.  An example of where we see this is during the recruitment process. Most people forget their target audience. Different demographics should be aware of contrasting communications styles that are expected and appropriate within the workplace, this includes different formats, media, regularity of communications and appropriate terminology."

Interestingly, it was Millennials (Kiwis aged 18-34) who struggled most, with 38 per cent finding it difficult to communicate with coworkers not from their generation, compared to their older counterparts with only 13 per cent of Generation X and Baby Boomers (Kiwis, aged 45-67), citing the same concerns. 

1 NZ Work Research Institute: Understanding New Zealand’s Ageing Workforce

Swan continues. "To help overcome this challenge that will resonate with the intended audience, having an industry expert or mentor review your CV and conduct a mock interview with you will, help prepare you to present yourself in an authentic and appropriate way."

When it comes to career progression opportunities, mature age can be seen as both a challenge and an opportunity. Currently, 56 per cent of Kiwis feel that younger employees have more career progression opportunities than the more mature workforce. While almost half (48 per cent) believe the generations are treated differently by their managers.

Phillippa Powell, OD Advisor at Chorus said that when multiple generations collaborate on projects, it provides Chorus with greater diversity of thought, unlocking creativity and different approaches to problem solving. "Having a diverse range of ages also helps us to relate to our customer base. Millennials and younger employees provide new skills and ideas which are essential in the telco industry as technology continues to evolve. Mature workers are also a highly skilled and valued group of people.

Their substantial technical and specialist expertise means they can share knowledge and act as mentors for our younger workforce."

Does age matter when it comes to leadership?

Although 86 per cent of respondents believe that their direct manager’s age does not matter as long as they’re inspirational, 61 per cent still prefer that their direct manager is older than themselves. The majority of the respondents (79 per cent) says their direct manager is talented at working across generations and 76 per cent state that their direct manager cares about their career path.

If you want access to the full Randstad Workmonitor research report, please click here:

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