Is technology physically disadvantaging Gen X in the workplace?
They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But is it equally hard to teach a new dog old tricks? Human Resource departments across the world are now facing a diverse new problem. For what could be the first time in history, our workplace is made up of 4 generations. Mature Workers, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Gen Y are all working alongside one another in the workplace, all equipped with vastly different skills – and all facing completely different weaknesses.
As the retirement age increases to 70 years of age and above, the generational gap between co-workers continues to pose an inherent problem for companies. Gen Y were tweens when home computers were first introduced, and the rapid advances to technology have progressed in speed with their path into adulthood. For Baby Boomers and Gen X, the ability to keep pace with the suddenly tech-reliant workplace can be overwhelming. Learning a new skill is difficult enough, but older generations are expected to quickly their way of thinking and adapt different tactile learning.
What does this mean for Mature Workers, Baby Boomers and Gen X in the workforce?
With an aging population, increased cost of living and the extended retirement age in Australia, these older generations don’t appear to be leaving the work force any time soon. Gen X have become worried that Gen Y will steal their jobs or “out skill” them in the eyes of employers. Conversely, Gen Y are becoming increasingly frustrated at having to teach older peers what they consider to be basic tech skills.
Whilst tech is the future of the way that business is conducted, Gen X will be around for a while longer. This means that workplaces need to adapt to the contrasting skill sets of employees. Not only can this help to ease internal tensions within the workplace, but this can help to provide a more productive and efficient workplace.
Research conducted by Career Builder.com in 2013 indicates that almost half of Gen Y prefer to communicate online while Gen X and Baby Boomers consider this to be a rude and informal means of communication, preferring face-to-face contact. Immediately, this indicates trouble for the the 4 generations now co-existing within the workplace.
According to EY, 69% of workplaces now say that they are beginning to implement accommodations to the generational and skill disparity. Where older generations bring experience and expertise, younger generations bring quick technological adaptability.
In terms of office politics, workplace lunches and team building days are necessary for staff to begin to break out of their generational groups and begin to understand different perspectives. Further, employers should look to the varied skills between the groups and apply their roles to harness and embrace these skills. Workers themselves must be encouraged to become flexible towards learning from other co-workers. Competitive workplaces will demonstrate the incentive of both expertise and technological aptitude to employees. Internal and external communications for a company must acknowledge the gap in tech skills and contrasting attitudes towards personal contact. In fact, tech can be used to help Gen X balance their work and home life. Where Gen Y are forced to develop astute interpersonal skills and face-to-face negotiation, they will develop further understanding and context to their role.
The ball is now in HR’s court. Workplaces that fail to acknowledge and adapt to these significant demographic changes will fall behind those that utilise diversity.
Has your workplace begun to introduce diversity training? Do you find it difficult to keep up with younger generations? Tell us your thoughts below!
WORDS BY CYNDALL MCINERNEY
Thank you for your message. We'll be in touch as soon as possible!