With Australians living longer and working later, the workforce is becoming increasingly generationally diverse. Today Australians over 65 have a workforce participation rate of 13% compared to just 8% in 2006.
Although Baby Boomers are currently more active in the workforce for their age than those before them, the next decade will see a changing of the guard in the workforce. By 2031 Gen Y and Gen Z will comprise almost two thirds of the workforce and Generation Alpha almost a tenth (8%). In this time the youngest of the Baby Boomers will sail past 65 and ease out of the workforce. This will leave a very significant knowledge, labour and leadership gap for the following generations to take up.
With five generations represented in the Australian workforce, the opportunity for intergenerational division is ripe. As leaders, it is important to understand the values and perspectives each generation brings to harness the strengths and be aware of the potential challenges.
1. Create a culture that is inclusive of all generations
The first step in preparing for the intergenerational knowledge transfer is to create a culture that is inclusive of all generations. Positively, three in five Australian workers (61%) believe their workplace is extremely or very effective at creating a culture that is inclusive of all generations. Currently, younger generations are more positive about their workplace’s effectiveness at creating a culture that is inclusive of all generations than their older counterparts, highlighting to leaders and organisations that there is still more work to be done in this area (68% Gen Z, 63% Gen Y cf. 60% Gen X, 49% Baby Boomers).
2. Value the wisdom of older generations
To effectively prepare for the intergenerational knowledge transfer it is not just about creating cultures that are inclusive, but cultures that value and honour the strengths of the different generations. Currently more than half of Australian workers (56%) believe their workplace is extremely or very effective at valuing the experience and wisdom of older staff. Once again younger generations are more likely to hold this viewpoint. Almost two in three Gen Z (65%) believe their workplace is extremely or very effective at valuing the experience and wisdom of older staff compared to 53% of Baby Boomers (56% Gen Y, 52% Gen X).
3. Intentionally create intergenerational mentoring opportunities
Baby Boomers have a lifetime of experience, wisdom and relational capital that, if leaders are not careful, will simply walk out the door as this generation approaches retirement. This next decade is an opportunity for leaders to be intentional about creating opportunities for the younger to learn from the older. Currently, half of Australian workers (49%) believe their workplace is effective at creating opportunities for older staff to impart their wisdom and learnings to younger staff and just 43% believe their workplace is actively preparing for transferring knowledge between leaving or retiring staff and other team members.
Baby Boomers particularly believe there is more that can be done in this space with just 26% believing their workplace is actively preparing for the knowledge transfer and 38% seeing their workplace as extremely or very effective at creating opportunities for older staff to impart their wisdom and learnings to younger staff.