· 2 min read · Features

Challenges HR faces with generation gaps


There are lots of 47 to 65 year olds in all organisations. These are the baby boomers and many of them are starting to retire.

With the removal of the Default Retirement Age, many will not be retiring for some time yet. On the other hand many of this generation have already retired. Some of those who were on final salary pension schemes, and were lucky enough to be paid off, did choose to retire early. But still there is a higher proportion of this age group sitting in many workplaces than there are the younger Generation X and Generation Y workers.

One of the big challenges is that this very same group of workers may hang around for quite some time. The impact of the global financial crash is still working its way through most national economies and through most personal economic circumstances, thus many baby boomers will continue to work for longer. They are fitter than previous generations and they have no option economically but to carry on working. Where this happens--and it's happening quite regularly-- pathways for younger workers are being blocked and the potential loss of talent will be a worry for HR.

Recognising this, it would serve HR well to take a longer term view and show the organisation the bigger picture relating to cross-generational issues. By sharing the information, both the older workers and younger workers will understand what structural aspects the company will need to manage in the coming years. Where possible, the organisation can assure what it's trying to do now and in the coming years assure that these challenges do not become major areas of frustration and conflict for people throughout the business.

One key area is to work more proactively with mature employees to reshape the roles that they have, in order to accommodate upcoming players within the team by allowing them more headroom, more intellectual stretch and more responsibility. Without innovative approaches like this, the HR profession may watch and report the loss of younger and talented people - those whom inflexible HR departments failed to accommodate. This issue of reshaping roles is not something that can be undertaken purely by writing good policy documents.

If ever there was a case for organisations to take a proactive--but also personal -approach, this is it. A person well experienced, possibly with long service and in the latter stages of their career, needs a personal understanding of their very specific situation. Only by understanding that can the organisation build an innovative plan that suits the team, the individual workers, the manager and the business overall, whilst enabling HR to manage a consistent approach to the generation gap issue. If HR tries a blanket approach, regardless of how good their policy is, it is likely to be ineffective. If there's one thing we know from experience, it is that experience teaches us to take things on our terms, not on the general terms everyone else is getting.

Simon North is co-founder of Position Ignition, which consults with employers on how to help them manage senior employees more effectively   @font-face { font-family: "Calibri"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0cm 0cm 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-size: 11pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }