5 Diverse Generations, 1 Dynamic Workplace
Uniting diverse perspectives
As we work for longer or take up second careers later in life, we have also seen the advent of the 5- generation workplace – with employees ranging from over 70’s Traditionalists and Baby Boomers through to the 50 somethings we call Generation X and their younger, digital native colleagues of Millennials and Gen Zers.
In the new era of collaboration, how do we unite such a diverse spread of perspectives and what role can technology play that is intuitive for every age group?
Diversity delivers opportunity
We all know the stereotypes about different generations; whether it’s the need for immediacy, love of group sharing and bite-sized information amongst Millennials, or older employees wanting a more formal hierarchy, to work alone or follow process. While assumptions are sometimes true, we still have more in common than divides us and there is an exciting opportunity for tech to bring needs together to benefit all.
An increasing number of value-exchange initiatives are now emerging between young and old. As Zohra Alla, Product Manager at Sharp France notes, “senior managers are often keen to expand their digital horizons, so we encourage Gen Z to ‘buddy up’ with more senior colleagues and upskill them in a relaxed way that builds trust between all of us”.
As well as this bottom-up learning, the same is true in reverse. As job functions rapidly evolve and young ‘data architects’ and ‘user experience strategists’ are quickly promoted by virtue of their tech skills, so seniority can come before experience. Zohra believes that it’s often the reflective and analytical nature of older colleagues that provides wise counsel to younger team members who have a tendency to “act now and think later”.
Data democratisation means more open dialogue
The ‘levelling up’ between generations is also driven by the democratisation of data. With the rise of the digital workspace and integrated frameworks that manage app, data and desktop delivery across devices, technology now puts insight at everyone’s fingertips. And because accessible and reliable data means more people, knowing more, more of the time, John Shackleton, IT Services Programme Manager at Sharp Europe, believes every level can now put forward their point of view, and dialogue is now more transparent amongst all, not just the senior few.
He also recognises though that it’s important to strike the right balance between Baby Boomers “not asking enough questions or checking in” and the millennial culture of asking too much and “expecting to discuss every decision rather than showing initiative”.
Uniting trad & tech approaches
We all know that some of the best ideas are driven by clear colleague communication. However, generational approaches on how to deliver them can be very different. For over forties, face-to-face chats or over the phone sociability is often key, while ‘eyes down’ Millennials focus on their devices and are seemingly not in the room during brainstorms.
For Jesse Tolboom, Digital Marketing & Communication Marketeer at Sharp Benelux, this contrast emphasises how “we need to put universal needs that span age groups and the common human touch at the heart of every new piece of business technology”. Sharp’s BIG PAD puts this approach in action by taking the humble flipchart into the future, with an Interactive display that still allows traditionalists to build ideas but with a true ‘pen-on paper’ experience, while younger colleagues get to interact with information and instantly create digital output to satisfy their need for immediacy.
Embracing the brave new world
A crucial theme that emerged from our research is how following a linear process has been replaced by a more unstructured path to project delivery. Adam Doehrmann, Project Leader IT Strategy & Controlling at Sharp Europe, sums this up perfectly when he says that “the traditional reliance on a defined step-by-step process and framework has shifted forever to a more fluid environment where we not only need 360 degree vision, but have to react dynamically to change”.
New workplace tech therefore relies on us all having an open mind to new behaviours. With web conferencing software, for example, rapid mass-adoption was forced upon all by Covid-19, with Microsoft Teams use up from 35 million to 75 million since the crisis, according to Thomas Hall, GDP account lead at Microsoft UK. With Baby Boomers surprising themselves on how easily it became part of their working day, it proved how embracing tech together even when it’s unforeseen, means we all feel part of a future together. After all, technology will always age, but the thing that never gets old is connecting people.
The cross generational workplace of the future
With the advent of the 5-generation workplace and the new era of collaboration, how do you keep all generations happy in one dynamic workplace and what role can technology play that is intuitive for each age groups?
The Future of Work Report: Latest Findings
The Future of Work Report: Infographic
The Future of Work Report: Initial Findings