The stories of Winnie the Pooh create a surprising analogy for the modern workplace: a multigenerational, diverse and flexible team working together to overcome challenges, solve problems and learn new skills. Different team members - from wise old Owl, to helpful Piglet, enthusiastic Roo and honey-loving Pooh - all contribute in their own, unique ways. If one of them isn't around, the rest of the team misses their input. And they only really work well when they're working together. These stories have been around for nearly 100 years, so why are workplaces so slow to adapt to this type of team? Here, we explore some of the challenges.
There are a number of significant changes affecting the workplace today, from the rise of the robots to globalisation. Among these trends - and, perhaps, the most important - is the one that will affect us all, no matter where in the world we are or the type of job we do. And that's the ageing workforce.
Demographic trends show clearly why this is happening. High birth rates from the time of the Baby Boomers is combining with increasing life expectancy and the way people think about work and retirement to create a workforce that includes multiple generations. Since the 1980s, workers aged 55 and over have grown from 1 in 10 to 4 in 10 in the US workforce. And while the US labour market is expected to grow by 0.6% per year to 2026, numbers of those in the 65-74 year old age bracket are expected to increase by over 4% annually. (see Deloitte's article, No time to retire.)
What does this mean? It means five generations in the workplace. Different generations will be working together at a scale never seen before. This comes with challenges, but also presents a whole host of opportunities, including quality, profitability and loyalty of your workforce.
Much of the literature that looks at the ageing workforce focuses on how to make changes to manage your multigenerational team. But this has made us question - why create a different approach for a multigenerational workforce when all teams would benefit? Here are our five tips for creating a workplace that embraces diversity in all of its forms:
Build strong relationships: All good team work depends on strong relationships, so create opportunities for your staff to get to know each other, on different work projects and on a more personal level. Think creatively about how you can build your team dynamic.
Create opportunities for mentoring: Learning from others is a great way to share skills across a diverse team, especially when it recognises that each pairing can learn from each other. Mentoring can take place inside your team or with people outside of your organisation.
Be flexible: We've talked about flexible working for as long as we can remember, but too many of our clients still focus on clock watching and presentee-ism. Increased flexibility will mean increased diversity - and means a more engaged and enthusiastic team.
Offer incentives that reflect different expectations and needs: Different things make different people tick. Some are driven by financial rewards. Others like to access support for wellbeing. As far as possible, think about what incentives will work best for your diverse team - and do your best to deliver them.
Celebrate the differences: Difference is what makes the world go round, so rather than scratching your head about how to make your diverse team 'gel', celebrate the different styles, approaches and perspectives that the individuals within your team bring. It's a wonderful thing.
Here are Lucidity, we're doing our best to build the type of atmosphere that is ready to embrace diversity. And even though we're a micro-business, we span generations, experiences and interests. We're celebrating the different perspective that gives us. Make sure you celebrate the diversity in your team, too!