This paper explains the effects of operating a multigenerational workforce and the impacts of an ageing population on the contemporary business environment. It highlights issues raised in association with employing a multigenerational workforce and proposes and argues effective solutions to prevent some of these detrimental HRM issues from occurring. It explores and applies a series of motivational theories to overcome such issues, as well as utilising job design strategies.
One challenge that the contemporary business environment must overcome are the issues that arise from a multigenerational workforce, which can be defined by having the four generations; traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X and generation Y working together (Schermerhorn et al. 2011, p. 48). While these four generations working together creates a diverse workforce, it also creates a series of Human Resource Management (HRM) and leadership challenges arising from the struggle that can result from different generational values, characteristics and cultures in conflict. In order to better identify these issues associated with a multigenerational workforce, we must first define each generation by their generally accepted characteristics, as well as their pros and cons.
Traditionalists, also known as the silent generation or veterans, are born roughly between 1925 and 1945, the majority of traditionalists experienced serious poverty and grief, living through both World War two (WW2) and the great depression (Dahlroth, cited in Kapoor & Solomon 2011, p. 308). Traditionalists usually prefer a one-on-one coaching style and prefer to communicate through simple, upfront and brief traditional methods, such as hand written notes and other forms of written communication; they are also perceived as being very loyal and disciplined due to their often deep respect for authority (Kapoor & Solomon 2011, p. 309). However, nowadays, the bulk of traditionalists are either retired or deceased and play a minor role in the contemporary workplace.
Baby boomers are born between 1946 and 1964 following WW2 and are often observed to have a very competitive nature; their idealistic behaviour essentially means they are often willing to make personal and professional sacrifices in order to gain a competitive edge (Schermerhorn et al. 2011, p. 48). Baby boomers can be summarised as competitive micromanagers who excel in networking skills that value peer-to-peer styled environments, whilst also valuing a hierarchy based business model with the ability to embrace technology, unlike the previous generation of traditionalists (Kapoor & Solomon 2011, p. 309). Baby boomers, however generally lack the ability to multitask and have trouble integrating new tricks and innovative changes into their personal and professional lives.
Generation X (Gen Xers) consists of those born between 1965 and 1980. Gen Xers have experienced major economic recessions in the early 1980s and 1990s and as a result they have been shaped and characterised by these events. Krahn argues that due to “industrial restructuring, organisational downsizing, contractions in government hiring, and rising rates of part-time and temporary employment” Gen Xers have taken on a self-reliant personality and are somewhat sceptical of authority (Krahn & Galambos 2013, p. 94). As a result of the experiences of their youth, Gen Xers are often considered to be highly independent and prioritise a well-balanced work-life, which has ultimately led to a lower work commitment and a focus on extrinsic rather than intrinsic rewards (Krahn & Galambos 2013, p. 94). Furthermore Gen Xers often favour an equal coaching environment, allowing them to exhibit their knowledge and ability for instant gratification and recognition, nevertheless they are generally considered to perform poorly