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Longer careers likely to cause generational tensions: KPMG study

Nearly half of the UK’s youngest workers believe the prolonged presence of older colleagues hampers their career progression and could damage productivity, a KPMG study has found.


A UK-wide survey of 1,500 people revealed that employers will need to manage growing tensions between Generation Y employees and older colleagues from Generation X and the Baby Boomer age, who are likely to stay in employment for longer due to social and financial pressures.

The number of over-65s in the UK labour market recently passed one million for the first time, according to the latest Government figures. 

Blocking career progression

The study of five generations, carried out by OnePoll, found 46% believe older members of staff will need to retire for younger talent to have genuine opportunities to progress their careers.

Nearly half of those surveyed believe a much older workforce drains productivity and only 20% would like older workers to remain to learn from their experience.

There is a wide acceptance that workers will need to stay in employment for longer. As rising long-term care costs drain retirement funds, two-thirds believe people will be forced to work until they die.

“An older workforce brings a wealth of experience and Baby Boomers can potentially adopt the invaluable role of coach or mentor to those entering the workplace,” said Robert Bolton, partner and co-leader of KPMG’s HR global centre of excellence. 

“The companies who succeed will be those who take advantage of what older workers can bring to the table, in a way that is both innovative and inclusive. They will be the ones who can find a way for the Baby Boomers in their workforce to be enablers for the young rather than blockers.”

Confident and ‘content’

The survey reveals a generational divide is emerging in terms of attitudes towards work. Over half (58%) of those from Generation Y are more likely to be content earning ‘enough’ rather than constantly striving for more – a figure that drops to 48% among Baby Boomers.

The ethical credentials of a company also matter more to younger generations, with 55% of Generation Y saying the CSR record of a company would influence their choice of employer, compared to 45% of Generation X.

Younger generations are also less likely to be attached to a single employer.

Nearly 40% of Generation Z (those born after the Millennial Generation) believes individuals will increasingly work for more than one organisation at the same time, compared to just 25% of Baby Boomers.

One in four (24%) of Generation Y believe “individuals will increasingly challenge and question their organisation’s purpose”, compared to just 12% of Baby Boomers.