21 Sep 10:00 by Daniel Marsh


The only certainty is uncertainty.                                                                              

An evolving challenge faced by many companies today is the integration of five generations in the workplace, each with a unique set of skills and expectations. Given this change, it is crucial that the techniques used to attract, engage and retain talent must also evolve and advance. Companies that are able to recognise that one size doesn’t fit all, will be the first to benefit from high-quality individuals.

Given the growing presence of Millennials in the market, making up approximately 35% of the Australian workforce and projected to represent an astounding 50% of the global workforce by 2020, this may be the cohort to start. The current labour marketplace, accused of not caring about employees as individuals, has struggled to integrate a generation that strives to make an impact. This new generation of workers have vastly different wants and needs to previous workforces and hold more bargaining power than ever before in the labour marketplace. A millennial-friendly culture is the key for companies to transfer that power in their favour. Identifying the right selling points that not only promotes the development and nurturing of employees but also the opportunity to receive financial perks to sustain that drive and commitment. Companies that foster flexibility, awareness, and resilience are more likely to survive these uncertain times, and even to prosper.

These significant differences between the two groups could have dire consequences on the company’s purpose, morale and brand reputation and that would ultimately have an impact on performance and productivity. Millennials are often left frustrated with the fact that their superior and more experienced co-workers lack the technological and social media skills. Whilst, baby boomers argue that Millennials seek self-gratification now, and demand success from day one. Baby boomers emphasise the core value of equal opportunities and the need to “earn” respect, responsibility, or rewards. Baby boomers tend to be more static and loyal to their employers, having grown up in a world where most people spent an entire career at one company, while Gen Xers and Millennials grew up surrounded by downsizing and outsourcing and therefore feel more like free agents, often happy to take on a portfolio career full of uncertainty.

However, even amongst these two opposing perspectives, employees do recognise the value of having various backgrounds, opinions, and skills. Taking advantage of it is the key to success.

Top 3 Problems on the Horizon for the Future of Work

  1. Skills Gap:
  • As baby boomers retire over the next two to five years, there is the risk of a significant skills gap forming. Most Australian employers have anticipated this and are taking appropriate steps to mitigate against this.
  1. Technological burden:
  • Although advancements in technology have had a positive effect on productivity and performance, it is evolving at a much faster rate than the human brain. This constant transformation is placing a heavy burden on employees, who are struggling to keep up and adapt to this change.
  1. Digitalisation:
  • As a result of digitalisation, two main factors will have a significant impact on leadership roles. Firstly, an excess of data blurring traditional borders between leaders, employees and external parties presents transparency issues. Second, we will see decentralisation, with collaboration networks and decisions made outside of the traditional organisational frameworks and hierarchies

Filling The Age Gap

Acknowledging the issue is only the beginning. Implementing a strategy that can solve this dilemma is the difficult part. One potential first steps are to generate an understanding of the surrounding economic environment. Once you have painted a clear picture of what’s changing externally, it will make it easier to identify what needs to change internally.

The following strategies can help to retain retiring baby boomers’ skills and experience within the company:

  1. Offer a phased retirement. 
  • Phased retirement options allow boomers to retire gradually while providing time for them to train successors. These arrangements can include consulting, part-time work, flexible hours, telecommuting or specialised project work.
  1. Don’t just pay attention at the top. 
  • Don’t just plan for senior-level vacancies. Having a capable successor for key roles at all levels is important.
  1. Prepare future leaders. 
  • Work with employees with leadership potential through mentoring, additional career development or education, and ensure they can see a viable career path within your organisation.


Future of Work – Summary

There is not one clear and simple solution to this problem. Every company has distinct and unique cultural differences which contribute to overall performance. Companies should develop several coherent, multipronged strategic-action plans. Each one of these plans should look to embrace all the functions, business units and geographies of a company and demonstrate how it can thrive in different economic environments. It will be a challenging process and will rely on strong leadership to lead by example as role models of the future ways of working. Remaining strong in these uncertain times, should be a priority for most organizations. However, it is the determined and cohesively ambitious organizations that will thrive.