Table of Contents

The Multi-generational and Aging Workforce

The Multi-generational and Aging Workforce

Challenges and Opportunities

New Horizons in Management series

Edited by Ronald J. Burke, Cary Cooper and Alexander-Stamatios Antoniou

The workforce is aging as people live longer and healthier lives, and mandatory retirement has become a relic of the past. Though workforces have always contained both younger and older employees the age range today has expanded, and the generational gap has become more distinct. This book advocates the need for talented employees of all ages as a way to prevent potential skill shortages and considers both the challenges and opportunities that these changes raise for individual organizations. The benefits they discuss include greater employee diversity with regards to knowledge, skills experience and perspectives, whilst challenges involve potential generational tensions, stereotypes and age biases. The book further places an emphasis on initiatives to create generation-friendly workplaces; these involve fostering lifelong learning, tackling age stereotypes and biases, employing reverse mentoring where younger employees mentor older employees, and offering older individuals career options including phased retirement, bridge employment and encore careers.

Chapter 1: Managing an aging and multi-generational workforce: challenges and opportunities

Ronald J. Burke

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour


Someone once said that the only sure things in life were death and taxes. We can now add two more sure things – an aging workforce and an increasingly multi-generational workforce. This chapter reviews factors contributing to, and the effects of, an increasingly aging and multigenerational workforce on individuals, families, organizations and societies. It sets the stage for the chapters that follow, which address these in significantly more detail. There has always been age diversity in the workplace, but age diversity is greater today. There have always been several generations in the workplace, but generations were more similar to each other in their work attitudes, work values and life experiences in the past than they are today. The first half of this chapter examines the aging workforce, and the second half reviews the multi-generational workforce. It considers the following content: why the population and workforce are aging, potential benefits and risks of an aging workforce, age and job performance and work outcomes, managing an increasingly aging workforce, definitions and characteristics of four generations in the workplace (Veterans, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Y/Millennials), potential benefits and concerns of a multi-generational workforce, actual versus perceived generational differences, and managing a multi-generational workforce.