The Multi-generational and Aging Workforce
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The Multi-generational and Aging Workforce

Challenges and Opportunities

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.
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Chapter 7: Complexity in multigenerational organisations: a socio-political perspective

Sukhbir Sandhu, John Benson, Saras Sastrowardoyo and Christina Scott-Young


Modern organisations are characterised by complex diversity. They often operate in, or are influenced by, multinational environments, with workforces increasingly becoming multicultural and multigenerational. Not surprisingly, one of the major challenges confronting managers is managing a workforce that varies across age, culture and nationality. Consequently, managers often rely on concepts such as generations to make sense of the diversity in the workforce. Generations have been defined as distinct age cohorts that share unique core values, attitudes and behaviour (Zemke et al., 2000). This has given rise to typologies that provide managers with a framework to classify the workforce into age-based cohorts (for example, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y). Each generational cohort is assumed to demonstrate unique attitudinal and behavioural attributes. This, in turn, allows managers to tailor organisational policies in order to effectively manage specific generational cohorts. Generation is a useful concept, as it allows managers to make sense of bewildering complexity. However, the current conceptualisation of generations is largely based on Western, usually US, age-based profiles. While there is inherent merit in the concept of generations, and the ensuing typologies, the current conceptualisation of generations does not capture the increasing diversity in the modern multinational and multicultural workforce. We recommend that the generations concept needs to move beyond simply transposing behavioural and attitudinal attributes that define Western generations, to generations across the globe. We propose a more nuanced understanding of generations that factors in the social and cultural differences that characterise the modern workforce.

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