Discussing age in the workplace without generalisations and stereotypes can be difficult, according to Kelly, but it can be possible.
Speaking to HR magazine, she says: “I always avoid putting anyone in a box. But at the same time, the role of HR is to maximise your employees’ productivity and happiness.
“When you’re doing that, you will find there are trends within generational needs, which makes sense. As people grow up in different times and are working at different stages in their careers and lives, you need to understand and value those differences to get the best out of people.”
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One of the key differences Kelly has noticed is that Gen Z are not vocal about their needs at work.
She says: “A difference between Gen Z and other generations, which I don’t see represented in the media or in stereotypes people make, is their silence around what they need.
“Other generations have found their confidence and are much better at bringing up what is challenging and saying ‘we need a policy about that’. For example, I have heard great insights from women in their fifties about menopause policies.
“But I hear a quieter voice from younger workers, so we need to amplify this if we want to welcome them into the workforce and show them they’re valued.”
Kelly says this is down to having less experience at work as younger people, plus reaching working age during the pandemic.
“I have seen this cohort needing more support in becoming part of the workforce than previous generations because of their experiences of studying and work being interfered with during covid,” she says.
In order to encourage Gen Z to speak up, Kelly has introduced a young person’s representative at IRIS Software Group.
“Younger workers may not have built up that strong relationship with their coworkers yet and having their own representative as an official voice has been super helpful.”
She has also encouraged Gen Z to socialise with co-workers to improve their sense of psychological safety and belonging.
“One of the key correlations between retaining people is a sense of belonging. If people don’t have something they feel part of at work, they’ll get an offer with a 5% pay rise and leave.
“But with this generation who love to work from home, we have to be more conscious about creating opportunities to socialise. Events like the Christmas party have a new status as a key event that brings people together and creates connections they can nurture for the rest of the year.
“We have a policy called ‘come to the office for a BIT’, which stands for belonging, innovations and teamwork. We really want to make it clear that one of the big predictors of people who will be successful at work is to build connections.”
Kelly says ensuring employees of all ages can be open about their needs is a key part of building an intergenerational team.
She adds: “Gone are the days where everyone is lucky to have a job and should be seen and not heard. Management is now vital and we're concentrating on upping their skills to help them listen to people's needs from different generations.
“A lot of people’s needs are the same things regardless of age - fair work for fair pay, a sense of purpose. However, it won’t always be, so part of that is having transparent conversations when an employee asks for something you can’t comply with and working towards a compromise together.
“That’s how you balance the needs of all the generations you have in the office, which is only going to be a larger number with our ageing population.”