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Hot topic: Political generation gaps, part two


The Brexit referendum revealed a considerable generation gap in political opinions

While most young voters chose to stay, many in the older generations voted to leave. Is this an issue when managing multiple generations in the workforce?

Angus Hanton, co-founder of Intergenerational Foundation, says:

"Organisations must be mindful of stoking intergenerational workplace conflict as they navigate their way through Brexit. Intergenerational tensions are likely to increase if younger generations are affected disproportionately.

"Due to market shocks following the result, private pension schemes deficits have hit an unprecedented £118 billion. This may oblige employers to put more money aside, thereby reducing monies available to expand, invest, promote, increase pay, or recruit new, principally younger, staff.

"If sales contracts are pulled, younger staff members could fall victim to a ‘last in, first out’ redundancy policy. A moratorium on recruitment is also more likely to affect younger workers.

"Lack of business confidence may see organisations preferring to outsource roles rather than take on full-time workers. This could lock younger workers out of those in-work employment perks and protections – such as sick pay, travel pass schemes and pension contributions – already enjoyed by full-time older workers.

"Since many younger workers who voted ‘in’ may feel that older colleagues have pulled the rug from under them, the role of HR departments will be crucial in ensuring that the generations are treated equitably if or when hard decisions have to be made."

Jean Pralong, associate professor of human resources management and new careers chair at NEOMA Business School, says:

"The idea of generation has invaded many analyses: in management, HR and political science, the differences in behaviour are explained on the basis of differences in generations.

"But what do the members of a generation have in common? What do a business school graduate and a craftsman share, apart from their age? What does the child of a top executive and the child of an employee have in common? Are their behaviours equally crafted by technology? Do they really have the same access to information? Obviously, no.

"The generational variable is less explanatory than social class, education or territories. Trying to explain differences in behaviour by differences of generations is attempting to hide these other differences – and demonstrates the existence of a stereotype of youth in Western Europe.

"Youth represents deviance, but also creativity, renewal and progress. Young people are perceived as embodying the vanguard of these new behaviours. But this is just a stereotype. So, who cares?"

Read part one of this Hot Topic