This essay explores the impact of multigenerational labour force and the ageing workforce on human resource management in the current business environment. The paper also seeks solutions to the human resource management issues that emanate from the multigenerational and ageing workforce.
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In this paper, it is argued that the contemporary work environment is faced with significant pressure and complexity due to the existing generational gap. This paper begins with the explanation of what constitutes a multigenerational workforce and ageing workforce. The paper also looks into the impacts of these two types of workforce on human resource management in business environment.
This is followed by an exploration of the mechanisms that are being deployed to iron out the complexities of a multigenerational workforce. In the discussion, the paper brings out the issue of best practices in the application of job design strategies and motivational theories in managing a multigenerational workforce.
According to Dwyer (2009), the generational differences in the contemporary work environment have challenged the management of the workforce. The modern work environment faces the challenge of attaining compatibility of employees. This is caused by the fact that there are variations in the age and character of the employees (Tulgan 2004).
This increases the difficulty of uniting employees on work practices in organizations (Hatfield 2002). It is, therefore, important to understand the issues that surround a multigenerational and ageing workforce in organizations to solve the complexities.
It is critical to understand the real meaning of a multigenerational workforce and an ageing workforce. According to Kunreuther (2003), a multigenerational workforce implies that people of diverse characteristics prevail in the same work environment. This denotes the differences in the nature of the generations that are prevailing in the contemporary economic environment.
The most notable way in which the generational gap is defined is by basing on age difference. The age differences bring out a number of developmental features of the employees. For instance, the people in the workforce who were born in the later years of the 20th century are often associated with information technology advancement (Pitt-Catsouphes & Matz-Costa 2009).
On the other hand, an ageing workforce is termed as a profound part of the problem of the generation gap in the global workforce. An understanding of the ageing or greying workforce is explained through the grouping of the prevailing workforce into two generations: generation X and generation Y (Dwyer 2009). The ageing workforce, which is often referred to as baby boomers, is placed in the generation X.
This is a group of employees who have been in the workforce for a significant number of years and have either attained or are nearing retirement age. The issue of an ageing workforce is quite common in the developed economies. This emanates from the fact that the developed economies, like the United States, imposed controls on their population in the mid years of the 20th century (Hatfield 2002).
Having acknowledged the prevalence of a multigenerational workforce, a substantial number of researchers in HRM have noted that there are numerous problems of workforce management that come with such a workforce.
There are four main generations that are represented in the contemporary business and corporate environment. These are the veterans, baby boomers, generation X and the millennial. The millennial are also called the generation Y. However, the three main generations that are represented in the modern workplace are the baby boomers, generation X and generation Y.
These three generations grew at the time when the world was undergoing rapid transformation. The shift in life events heavily impacts on the character and the behaviour of these generations (Glass 2007).
Therefore, harmonizing the diverse behaviour of these generations in the workplace requires a higher deployment of the psycho-social techniques (Wong, Gardiner, Lang and Coulon 2008). These techniques are deeply founded on the theories of organizational behaviour.
Zemke, Raines and Filipczak (2000) ascertained that a multigenerational workforce poses a number of challenges in the management of the workforce in the seemingly complex economic environment. The main source of most of the problems that are associated with a multigenerational workforce is the possession of diverse characteristics.
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By their nature, the diverse characteristics of the different generations in the modern workforce imply several things. These include variations in culture, the difference in the level and amount of skills and experience, the difference in the demands and needs and the divergence of the social characters of the employees in each generation.
It is difficult to totally comprehend and respond to the attributes and values of each generation of employees in the business environment (Smola and Sutton 2002). These issues are proving to be a hindrance to the attainment of cohesiveness in organizational work.
Cultural variation is one of the main issues that confront human resource managers in organizations. The culture of an organization is attributed to the ability of the organization to unite individuals under a single culture.
However, the presence of diverse generations of employees in the contemporary labour industry denotes the widening of cultural variations between the sets of employees in the industry (“Managing a Multigenerational Workforce” 2005). The ageing population and the young population that is being absorbed into the workforce have different forms of lifestyles and experiences.
Age is a critical factor in determining the behaviour of employees in organizations. Younger employees and the old employees have their strong points and weak points, which rarely integrate. Smola and Sutton (2002) observed that a multigenerational workforce in the modern labour industry implies the presence of a lot of diversity, which emanates from the diverse generational groups.
The contemporary work environment is quite dynamic in terms of the demand for skills and experience of the workforce. The main challenge of managing in the contemporary environment is that the demand for skills does not match the available skills and expertise in the labour industry.
What is meant here is that none of the multiple generations that are prevalent in the modern labour industry can meet the scope of skill and expertise as demanded by organizations.
The available and perhaps the most rational practice that is done to address this issue is the absorption of workforce from different generations. However, this has profound consequences on employee management. It welcomes a generational tension due to the presence of diverse locus of views in organizations (Stanley 2010).
A number of researchers base on attributes like experience to justify the relevance of the greying workforce in the contemporary business environment. This does not seem to augur well with the new stream of employees who are being bred into the labour industry.
The new streams of employees who are classified as generation Y, on the other hand, boast of having the skills that are demanded in the modern job market (Stanley 2010). Integrating these two groups of employees is vital.
However, it takes a high level initiative from the human resource managers to strike a balance between the two (Weil 2008). The assessment of most organizations points to the need for the two sets of employees. This is because of the observation that they represent diverse, but equally important features that are needed in organizations.
Leveraging the generational variation for the purpose of increasing productivity is one of the main concerns of the managers. It is no doubt that the existence of a multigenerational and ageing workforce is a problem with the orientation of human resource management. Stanley (2010) observed that a multigenerational workforce denotes a change in the landscape of work in organizations.
Researchers in the field of human resource management have been focused on seeking for the means through which the problem can be solved. One critical thing concerning the existence of a multigenerational workforce in organizations is the generational groups that prevail in the organization. This is a critical step for managers, given the fact that organizations cannot desist from hiring employees from the multigenerational workforce.
The identification and understanding of the specific generational groups and their features can help human resource managers create room for the adaptability of different generations of employees in an organization (Deal 2007). Therefore, the identification of the nature of generational groups of employees and their actual features is vital to the deployment of other managerial techniques of managing a multigenerational workforce.
Several other managerial techniques, most of which seek to accommodate different generations of employees in organizations, are being deployed. According to Patota, Schwartz and Schwartz (2007), there are no prescriptive mechanisms of leveraging the generational gap in organizations.
However, several fragmented mechanisms are used by managers to ensure that the distinct features of the workforce are used for the benefit of organizations. Under the fragmented models of leveraging the generational gap, it is vital to identify the strengths and the weakness of each generation of workers
Research in the field of strategic human resource management denotes that the coexistence of different age groups in organizations and the variation in character between them easily results in conflicts. The generations of the contemporary workforce vary in three main areas. These are the management of change, work ethic and varied perceptions about organizational hierarchy.
The conflicts centre on the demands of the different age groups and the communication modalities that are embraced by each age group. Therefore, motivational and job design strategies can be used to bridge the generational gap in organizations (Twenge and Campbell 2008). According to Glass (2007), organizations can focus on four main areas in order to bridge the generational gap differences in the workplace.
These include the implementation of effective communication channels in organizations, the implementation of collaborative patterns of decision making, the development and deployment of programs that centre on the differences, and a change in corporate philosophies.
A look at the suggested solutions denotes a complex process, which is quite involving. However, it is critical for organizational managers to pay attentions to these managerial attributes in order to embrace a conflict-free organization.
One critical thing in the management of the employees in organizations that have a diverse generation of employees is the understanding and application of psychological models. Psychological models can be deployed in the design of jobs. The character and the diversities of the age groups can be used to offer certain tasks to people of diverse ages.
For instance, jobs can be structured in such a way that the complex tasks are offered to the young and energetic employees, with time gaps being given to allow for entertainment. On the other hand, the less complex and lengthy tasks can be assigned to the generation X workers (Lower, 2006).
Zhao, Wayne, Glibkowski and Bravo (2007) observed that human resource managers need to understand the psychological contract of the employees in each generation. Each generation has a preference in employment and life balance.
Fostering communication with the employees ensures that organizations strike a balance between the work and life pattern of the employees. This is vital to fostering the relationship between the turnover and the commitment of all the employees (Cullinane and Dundon, 2006).
Motivation has been found to be a critical factor in shaping the behaviour of employees in organizations. Motivational theories are highly deployed in performance management. Managing a multigenerational workforce can be equated to the management of diversity.
The satisfaction of the primary and secondary needs of the employees, as opined by the Maslow’s theory, can be used as a means of motivating employees. This can be used to minimize the impact of the secondary variations that are brought about by the multigenerational issue (DuBrin, 2009).
The contemporary business environment is facing the reality of a widening gap between the prevailing generations of employees. From the discussion, it can be concluded that the presence of a multigenerational workforce brings about problems of organizing human resource practices. There is a big gap between the behaviour and demands of different generations of employees.
Human resource managers need to understand the differences that prevail between the generations so that they can deploy the desired techniques and avoid generational conflicts.
In the paper, it has been observed that motivational techniques can be effective in bridging the generational differences in organizations. The structure of work can also be used as a mechanism of reducing the work gap differences between employees in organizations.
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