Leadership Development for a Multigenerational Workforce From Top HR and L&D Experts

CoachHub · 22 February 2023 · 7 min read

During conversations about diversity and the proper way to build lasting and efficient work cultures, differences among generations are not usually considered. Having a multigenerational workforce comes with its unique set of challenges which, when not properly considered, has led to poor leadership decisions that affect organisations and cause up to $550billion losses annually according to Gallup.

The group of leaders we have today need to be skilled in managing and leading a team of individuals of different generations, especially since diversity comes with different ways of responding to the workplace culture.

This implies the need to identify and train a crop of leaders capable of leading a multigenerational workforce. This is the best way to create a balanced working environment and guarantee organisational success.

Now that the problem has been identified, the next step is to develop a sustainable leadership pool and train leaders with the needed skills to guarantee success in a diverse, multigenerational workplace. What is the best way for organisational leaders to encourage growth using multigenerational differences? These are the questions we hope to answer.

This study looks into the following areas:

  • Leadership development challenges for a multigenerational workforce
  • Top leadership and power skills needed for the future
  • How companies like L’Oreal, FWD Insurance, Graincorp and Mercer are driving leadership development programmes and a continuous learning culture for people and business impact.

Human Centred Leadership Design

The best way to make changes to any workplace culture is by incorporating a human centred leadership design marked by human traits like authenticity, empathy and adaptivity. Despite the fact that we now live in a digital age, the workforce is still made up of people and the best way to make effective changes is by ensuring that said changes are human-centric.

Thankfully, most leaders are in agreement with the idea that a new approach to leadership needs to be developed if they are to successfully lead a multigenerational workforce.

This is why it is essential that the emerging class of leaders need to be prepped for the diversity of the digital age. Leadership styles that worked 50 years ago won’t work now. Like most things in life, the workplace culture is growing and evolving. Leaders need to be a part of that evolution.

In train leaders, traits like self-awareness, proper communication, strong interpersonal relationship skills and ability to encourage inclusivity in teams need to be strongly encouraged.

Nehal Nangia, the research director at the Josh Bersin Company commented that one of the ways of ensuring that the training becomes effective is by thinking of a leader’s behaviour in two parts:

  • Business part (for company performance)
  • Human part (for employee engagement and growth)

Both parts need to be attended to when training leaders. This ensures that while they are committed to growing the company, the wellbeing of employees are not neglected.

Before now, the workplace culture used to be focused on ability alone but now, interpersonal relationships and heart play a major role in organisational growth.

Personalisation Matters

One major challenge in managing a diverse workforce occurs when trying to figure out a way to strike a balance between separate views, needs, strengths and skill sets. It is no longer feasible to apply a one-size-fits-all type of training because it would not be taking individual differences into consideration. On the other hand, it may prove difficult to provide training that matches an individual’s specific needs and qualities.

One approach that may help us realising that while manifestations of wants may differ, there are still similarities in the things that they require. This necessitates the need for personalised training rather than group training that doesn’t take individual differences into consideration.

Hence, the most effective solution to a multigenerational workforce is by implementing personalised training techniques. Organisations need to figure out the best way to divide their workforce thoughtfully and come up with personalised training designed to cater to specific needs. This encourages more engagement and knowledge retention among employees.

One expert mentioned how despite the differences in ages and characters among their team, the members still have similar needs to create effective teamwork. One of the best ways to build teamwork is by encouraging communication among team members while discussing responsibilities. This creates an opportunity for everyone to speak their minds and build better relationships. It has been proven that people are more encouraged to do better when they feel like their needs are being met.

Tackling Age Discrimination

According to data from recent research, about 12% of participants in APAC aged 45 and above have reported cases of age discrimination. This is the highest occurrence worldwide in recent times.

Age discrimination is one of the leading causes that stops workers from achieving their goals, especially with the alarming rate at which older workers are being forced to exit the general workforce. This puts both workers and employers at a disadvantage because companies are missing out on experience and talent due to age discrimination.

One of the leading causes of age discrimination is the misconceptions around older workers. Many people believe that older workers are unable to contribute effectively to the labour market due to their age. For some reason, there is the misconception that getting older reduces a person’s ability to make positive contributions to the work environment. Some believe that older workers are always slower and unable to adapt to the evolving workforce.

With all these misconceptions, many companies forget that older workers bring a certain level of experience that cannot be found among younger workers.

The misconceptions don’t help the older workers either as they may have a harder time finding new roles. In order to prevent an increased age discrimination crisis, organisations need to actively develop inclusive policies and a learning environment that make it easier to improve workplace multigenerational diversity.

Companies need to become more open to accommodating a diverse range of work ages and increased work span. Not only does this help older workers, it also helps companies in benefiting from the crystallised cognitive ability of such workers.

Talent Segments At Risk

If a company hopes to properly discover and retain invaluable talent in the workplace, they must learn to manage and engage several generations of workers. A lot of companies put more focus on finding and securing the talents of high-performing workers, forgetting that in order to create a holistic talent management system, you need to have individuals from different groups and classes.

All employees want to be a part of something they can contribute to personally and professionally. They all want to assist in the growth of something. Irrespective of age, most workers want to excel at their jobs. It is impossible to find that level of dedication if diversity is not encouraged in the workplace.

In order to ensure the continued growth and development of an effective workplace culture, it is essential that talent governance and integration is prioritised. Leaders need to be able to recognise that work preferences and habits are different among demographics and productivity doesn’t always look the same among everyone.

Outwardly high-performing individuals should not be the only focus as most workers have something to contribute to the growth of the companies they work with.

Now more than ever, it is essential that leaders are more open to the idea of promoting diversity among their workforce. In this digital age, power dynamics are more in favour of employees than employers. Hence, leaders need to be willing to be adaptable and be open to communication.

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Seizing Back The People Agenda

Four out of five CEOs are of the opinion that the business and the people are not entirely separate from each other. Encouraging upskilling and reskilling among workers in an organisation directly contributes to the growth of the business. They are workplace initiatives that have proven to have a positive effect on the overall growth of both the workforce and the company.

To be effective, leadership development needs to include programmes that encourage employee engagement and address talent gaps.

Organisations that offer programmes to encourage personal growth among employees and self-awareness in leaders are a lot more likely to do better on a global scale. They are also more capable of creating leaders capable of managing a multigenerational workforce.

All of this is part of a larger plan to encourage continued transformation of the workforce. This way, job descriptions are improved, people ignore skills, mindset changes occur and people are equipped with better tools to perform their jobs. At-risk employees are assisted with programmes to improve their skills and provided with opportunities to make it easier for them to switch jobs and adapt faster.

Conclusion

The diversity of the workplace spells out a need to create environments that are more inclusive and tolerant. There is an increased demand for leaders who are capable of navigating different cultures and fostering cooperation among employees across different demographics and generations.

While it may not be easy for companies and leaders to make these changes, they can introduce programmes and schemes like digital coaching to guide both leaders and employees towards building a more inclusive workplace culture. This contributes towards both personal and professional growth.

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