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Most companies today are faced with the problem of multigenerational workforces and ageing population. In general, the values and attitudes held by individuals towards work and relationships are largely determined by how they were raised and where they grew up (Werner et al. 2011).
Since the problem of multigenerational and ageing workforces is here to stay, it is becoming increasingly important for human resource professionals in modern day organizations to understand the various challenges encountered in dealing with the different groups so as to formulate appropriate policies and procedures that can enable them to satisfactorily address emerging concerns.
This is further complicated by the fact that not everyone shares the same values and attitudes within each generation. By nature, people are able to quickly fit into varying organizational structures guided by different human resource policies and procedure.
According to Hickman (2009, p. 15), the difference in values and attitudes towards work are as a result of the time in which they grew up. To effectively deal with the multigenerational workforces it is necessary for human resource professionals to assume that there are similarities that tend to bring the generations together while on the other hand, differences set them apart.
Human resource professionals should seek to understand the similarities and differences and consequently come up with strategies to deal with emerging issues. It is advisable for human resource professionals to devise policies and procedures that can cater for a wide variety of individuals.
Much has been written about the expectations of individuals in different age groups and generations. For employers, these varied expectations present challenges, especially given economic, global, technological, and other changes in the workplace (Weiss 2008, p. 54). In the United States, the commonly identified generational groups include traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X, and generation Y.
As the economy and industries have changed drastically, the ageing of the US workforce has equally become a significant concern for many. Workers over 55 years are now using different strategise to survive. They are notorious for delaying retirement age, and opting to work part time or retire in a phased manner.
Economic conditions are the predominant reasons why these workers are bypassing the normal retirement age of 65. Certainly, employers will continue to face challenges of getting the right workforce as the older generation of more experienced employees go into retirement. Finding the right replacement for the retired staff will be a daunting task for employers.
According to Mathis and Jackson (2010, p. 113), young and old generation workforces tend to have a totally different approach to work, and this creates more challenges that must delicately be addressed by human resource experts. For example, many baby boomers and traditionalists are concerned about security and experience, while younger people have different concerns.
Generation Y expect to be rewarded quickly, use more technology, and often ask more questions about why managers and organizations make the decisions they do. Consider the dynamics of a traditionalist manager directing generation X and Y individuals, or generation X managers supervising older, more experienced baby boomers as well as generation Y employees.
However, it is crucial to be aware that stereotyping these individuals by generations may not reflect how actual individuals view their jobs and produce organizational results.
Clearly, it important for managers to fully aware of challenges as well as any possible opportunities associated with multigenerational workforces and ageing populations in an organization. Presently, many organizations are using numerous approaches in order to enhance multigenerational effective and improve approach to management of complex workforces.
Strategies include mentoring, employee recognition, organizing trainings that accommodate every employee with no regard to the generation he or she belongs to, using younger employees to support the older employees, creating an environment in which skills from the older employees can passed on to the younger employees, and establishing multigenerational work groups (Rowe 2010, p. 57).
The old age dependency ratio indicates what proportion of a country’s population is of retirement age and what proportion is of employment age (Pollitt 2006, p. 18). In 2005, the average old age dependency ratio for countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was 24 per cent. As time goes by, it is alleged that this ratio is likely to double and will lead to increased spending.
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In industrialized nations, employers have realized that a high number of employees belonging to the older generation will soon be retiring. Among other concerns is how organizations will be able to fill the result gap in their workforce. This is mainly due to the fact that the younger population may not be in a position to effectively handle responsibilities earlier handled by the retirees.
There will be a growing shortage of experienced employees able to step into the shoes of retiring senior leaders (Mercer et al. 2010). However, economic necessity is not the only driver. The legislation is underpinned by ideals of fairness, and a commitment to civil and human rights.
Although it makes financial sense for people to work longer so that they pay more taxes and delay drawing their state pension, law makers seeking to prohibit age discrimination and raise the age of retirement claim they are driven by moral and ethical imperatives, not just money (Froemming 2000, p. 31).
In general, people of retirement age are considered fitter and more energetic than in the past, making them better able to cope with the physical and mental demands of work. More importantly though, work gives a sense of purpose and meaning to life, a benefit that individuals ought not to be denied simply because they have reached a certain age.
According to Mercer et al. (2010, p. 22), the development of equality legislation has been justified not only in terms of increasing a nation’s global competitiveness and reducing its public spending, but also in terms of increasing an individual’s social or moral well being.
These same two drivers lie behind similar modern legislation outlawing other forms of discrimination. The existence of equality legislation helps to simplify and strengthen the complex anti-discrimination laws that have developed over the years.
Although the effects associated with an ageing population on the formulation of human resource policies and procedures can be significant, they can vary greatly from country to country (Spiers 2003, p. 13). A major challenge encountered when dealing with an ageing population is the commitment by the state to care for retired employees through pension funds.
Certainly, the cost of providing for the aged population increases as more employees retire from active employment. This in turn puts a strain on the economy and subsequently, the rate of taxation has to be increased, placing a huge burden on the tax payer. In general, pension funds come with heavy liabilities which can in turn greatly affect a country’s finances and consequently recruitment and remuneration policies.
As noted by Smentek (2006, p. 26), there are numerous other problems brought about by an ageing population. To address the emerging issues, some human resource professionals advocate for effective succession planning. Generally, succession planning requires organizations to think ahead and devise effective plans for filling workforce gaps as older employees leave active employment.
Well informed human resource experts will ensure that as older employees advance in years and as they approach the stipulated retirement age, they are given a responsibility to mentor the younger employees. By equipping the young generations of employees with critical skills needed to work effectively, human resource professionals are able to guarantee continuity even after the older employs go into retirement.
Besides boosting the self esteem of the older employees, a well planned succession plan helps to build the confidence of younger employees and compel them to be more responsible and reliable employees. An approach adopted by most organizations involves the creation of multigenerational groups that create a platform where both the older and younger generation of employees can interact and freely share their skills.
Infertility and ageing are also to blame for work force problems experienced in some countries. Over time, the number of active employees goes down, putting these countries in a state where the available workforce can not satisfactorily meet the increased market demand for labor force. Other than requiring employers to pay high salaries to maintain the small work force available, the level of production also declines.
Ultimately, organizations that manage to survive are forced to operate at a loss. To address this problem, some countries such as the United States have relied heavily on immigrants.
On the other hand, the United Nations suggests that countries should make careers in public service more lucrative in order to attract and retain a high caliber of employees (UN 2005, p. 39). Although tried by some countries, the idea is yet to be implemented in most countries across the world.
In countries such as China, different strategies are being employed by human resource experts. One such strategy has been to turn to the use of tactics that enable effective use of a smaller work force.
Although strategies to make work in the civil service appealing to many have been used in some organizations, as suggested by the United Nations, the practice has not completely taken root as widely expected by most human resource professionals. Numerous efforts have also been made by various organizations in order to nurture talented individuals and prepare them for future responsibilities.
Another option suggested by the United Nations to deal with the scarcity of employees is to invite professional from other countries with desired skills to take up available jobs (Leibold & Voelpel 2007, p. 38). Apparently, this is an approach that has been used by a number of countries for years. One of the leading countries as far as this is concerned is the United States.
Dealing with Multigenerational Workforces and Ageing Populations
Besides some of the solutions mentioned earlier, other options also exist. According to Mathis and Jackson (2010, p. 29), succession planning offers a solution to the concerns of multigenerational workforces and ageing populations. Despite its importance, however, succession arrangements are not widely implemented by many. In fact, the lack of succession planning is frequently viewed as the biggest threat facing small businesses.
According to Lencioni (2011, p. 28), succession planning is critical regardless of who the businesses is to be passed on to. Planning for and handling the succession process effectively helps a great deal to avert problems and ensure that the organization continues to grow.
Besides having a well planned succession plan, content theory of motivation may also be used to address issues associated with a multigenerational workforce (Thompson 1996, p. 24). This may involve putting in place mechanisms to ensure that the older generation feels respected. Making use of the older generation of workers to mentor the younger workers, for instance, is a way of satisfying their self esteem need.
Organizations should also make plan to meet their security and safety needs. Organizations should provide motivating retirement packages to guarantee older workers of comfortable life after retirement. In a similar way, there should be plans to meet the needs of the younger generation.
In addition, a flexible job design will enable organizations to continue using the services of aged and experienced workers (Borkowski 2009, p. 35). Plans can be made for such workers to execute their job tasks from the comfort of their homes.
All aspects of public life have been affected by an increase in legislation, particularly in the area of employment. In the recent past, employment law has greatly expanded to prohibit discrimination on grounds of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation (Mercer et al. 2010).
One driver of this expansion is the perceived need for a modern society to mobilize its entire potential workforce and available intelligence in order to meet the pressures of globalization, multigenerational workforces, and an ageing population.
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