Technology at work: The multi-generational approach

employees talking in an office

The workforce is more eclectic than ever before.

With statutory retirement ages being raised and tough economic situations leaving people with little option than to carry on working later in life, workforces are comprised of a wider age range of employees than many have experienced in the past.

This presents HR teams with several challenges. These include how best to organise, train and generally manage their employees. Particularly when they hold a variety of generational work ethics and attitudes.

Of course, this challenge is being faced in all industries, but retail is feeling the pressure more than most. 10.4% of the UK’s over-65 population were still in employment in 2016, and retail has been identified as one of the top job choices for those over 65, due to the prominence of part-time hours and short shift durations. Retail also remains a top work choice for teenagers for the same reasons, making it a good role to work around further- and higher-education. Between these two ends of the spectrum, the average age of a retail worker is 37, which just goes to show just how multigenerational the retail industry is.

But how do managers not only cater to such a wide range of employees, but utilise HR technology to ensure that they are happy in their work and empowered to perform their roles to the best of their abilities? Let’s take a further look.

Baby Boomers (1945–1964)

The baby boomers are often known for a strong work ethic, and the importance they deem their occupations to carry.

They tend to see their work and home lives as one, with not so much emphasis on work-life balance as later generations. Generally, baby boomers like to be introduced to an idea and left to explore it themselves, so when it comes to training, they are more likely to respond to written worksheets that they can work through.

Generation X (1965–1979)

Workers of Generation X are generally seen as adaptable, and don’t tend to adhere to the idea of a ‘job for life’, preferring variety and new challenges.

Because of this, they are usually comfortable with change and handling variation in working conditions. They can work both alone and as part of a group, but like to be communicated with directly and immediately. With this in mind, they do well in adapting to HR technologies for things like notification of absence and holiday requests, but are also comfortable discussing such matters with managers and HR personnel. In training, Generation X workers may feel most comfortable with a combination of communal and solitary activities, and are unlikely to experience many struggles with technology.

Generation Y (1980–1995)

Generation Y are comfortable with technology – although they certainly remember less advanced times – and are used to it forming a regular part of their lifestyles.

They are marked by a much higher emphasis on a healthy work-life balance than previous generations, and may favour instant gratification rather than long-term goals. However, they are confident and open-minded in their work ethic and good at multitasking, and enjoy communal or digital activities.

They are likely to be adaptable to HR technology, and may already be used to using it for reporting absences, checking rotas or collecting wage slips. Their camaraderie makes for the most successful training in group scenarios, as well as making good ‘buddies’ when it comes to training and enriching their colleagues

Millennials (1996–)

Often described as the only generation never to have lived without technology, Millennials are almost certain to be at home with the technologies that form part of their working lives.

Their lives tend to revolve around technologies of some sort, and they prefer to see the merits of their work immediately, making them perfect candidates for digital training, which allows them to constantly monitor their own progress. They will also expect to get more enjoyment out of their non-work lives, so will particularly enjoy tangible benefits or incentives such as cash bonuses or reward experiences, like a meal out.

When implementing HR technologies, there is much opportunity for employees to train and support each other, and this is where a multigenerational team can really be put to best use.