Generational diversity is being ignored by UK businesses

In the United States, it’s already a hot topic; generational diversity, multi-generational workforces or generation integration and, more specifically, the impact of Generation Y (born between 1980 – 2000) entering the workforce. Most US organisations have started to implement a strategy to manage a multi-generational workforce and, in addition, acknowledge that Gen Y has many hidden talents organisations might use to their advantage.

However, the picture we see in the UK is quite different; Gen Y will comprise more than 40% of the UK workforce in 2015 – far outnumbering any other generation, while many Babyboomers will have left organisations, taking a wealth of knowledge with them. The workforce statistics confirm this view (for a visual presentation, see ). I have yet to find organisations that are actively planning on this shift in the workforce, despite the fact that it is already affecting the UK.

In addition, most companies agree with many of the negative features Gen Y has been stereotyped with – laziness, arrogance, no commitment, or loyalty. They do not yet see the value in creating an environment in which Gen Y truly flourishes and outperforms. I specifically say ‘yet’ as my prediction would be that, in 3 years’ time organisations will be forced to adapt as they will face various difficulties, to name just a few:

  • High staff turnover and the cost involved;
  • Knowledge drain with the Babyboomers retiring;
  • Generational culture clash;
  • Leadership scarcity due to a lack of people to fill middle and senior management roles;
  • Communication problems resulting in confrontations and misunderstandings;
  • Reduced employee engagement.

As distinct generations (including individuals with different values, attitudes and behaviours) are working together, they often collide as their paths cross. Generational differences can affect everything from recruiting to employee engagement to organisational performance. Yet many organisations do nothing or have even retired topics like talent management and employee engagement since the recession in 2008. We see that 43% of organisations do not have a talent plan in place at all, 59% have not acted upon a graduate development plan, 57% of graduates are planning to leave organisations within the next two years, and not to mention the lack of generational diversity plans.

In summary, what does this mean for organisations?
One may wonder why the topic ‘generational diversity’ is becoming a problem now. This is partly because of the sheer volume of generation Y entering the workforce while many Babyboomers will retire, and partly because there are fewer people with several years’ working experience (35-44yrs) to cope with these two major changes. The consequences of not acting on these demographic trends can be a severe threat for the existence of any organisation.

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