Video highlights from our masterclass on ‘leading and managing in age diverse organisations’

Explaining employer behaviour in youth transitions into the labour market – Professor David Wilson, OUBS and Professor Melanie Simms, University of Leicester

Championing better work and working lives – Peter Cheese, CIPD (focusing on ‘baby boomers’ in this segment)

Taking stock of stereotypes – Dr Rebecca Whiting, OUBS

Steps towards a living pension – Professor Sharon Collard, OUBS and Lydia Fearn, Barclays

Further video highlights from Peter Cheese, Chief Executive at CIPD (focusing on the modern working environment), Martin Hall, Senior HR Manager at BMW, Robyn Palmer, Programme Lead at NHS Employers and James Davies, Joint Head of Employment at Lewis Silkin LLP are showcased via our Age at Work webinar.

Age at Work webinar available to view online

Our webinar on Managing in Multigenerational Organisations took place on 25 February. If you missed it or want to watch again, the webinar is now available to view on demand.

Watch the webinar

Listen to what our speakers had to say about the strengths and challenges inherent in multigenerational workplaces and how you can leverage age diversity. Our webinar showcases video highlights from Peter Cheese, Chief Executive at CIPD, BMW, NHS Employers and Lewis Silkin LLP.

Our webinar panellists included Dr Katrina Pritchard, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Studies from OUBS and Martin Hall, Senior HR Manager at BMW. Facilitating this virtual event was Associate Lecturer Peter Wainwright, host of our previous Business Perspectives webinars.

You can also see what delegates had to say about the event on Twitter, and get the latest updates on events, offers and thought leadership pieces by following us @OUBSchool #OU_BP

Age at Work trend report & webinar

Business Perspectives trend reportOur latest Business Perspectives trend report looks at our current topic of Age at Work focusing on Multigenerational workforces: leading and managing in a new age. The report considers the wider world of ‘4G’ working, looking at flexibility, environment, mindset, future workforce and learning

The pace of business has never been so fast, which is why this summary has been designed so it can quickly inspire you at home, in an airport or on the go. You can download the report now, absolutely free.

Download the report

Continue the conversation with our free Age at Work webinar, focusing on managing in multigenerational organisations and how you can leverage age diversity. Our free one hour webinar will take place on Wednesday 25 February 2015 at 19:00 (GMT).

The online webinar will introduce video highlights from the Business Perspectives masterclass, held in London on Thursday 12 February. During the webinar, we’ll draw on contributions from our masterclass and further develop these discussion points. You can contribute via our live online polls and Q&A forums.

Register for the webinar

We invite you to download and share the report and send us any comments. If you would like to contribute your perspective towards future topics, please contact our Business Perspectives Editor.

How to manage multi-generational workplaces?

Murray Eldridge

Guest blogger: Murray Eldridge, Open University MBA Alumnus, Head of Commercial and Operations at Subsea Infrastructure and Director of Actinium CS Ltd. Author of ‘
Leading High Performance’.

Questions abound around Boomers, GenX’ers, Millennials and how to manage multi-generational workplaces?  We may be forgiven for thinking that this is a new problem of the modern era but when have work places not been multi-generational?

Every generation, indeed every child, has always sought its own place in the world. That eventual place is a blend of parental, peer, educational, societal, cultural, technological, and other factors. Despite this today’s received wisdom is, for example, that Millennials are very different from Gen X’ers and more difficult to manage. One could argue that if you want to look at a ‘difficult’ generation think back to the Baby Boomers in the late 60’s and 70’s! Rebellious and hedonistic in an era of over-abundance in jobs, goods and wealth!

It is worth noting that (in the west) Gen X was the first generation that on average earned less than their parents. Millennials have continued this downward trend. Because both Gen X and Millennials are on average more highly educated and more interconnected they ‘get’ the fact that current leaders (organisational and political) have a lot to answer for. Consequently there is a higher degree of scepticism of leaders, their motives and their competence. In their ‘Mind the Gaps’ survey (2015 Millennial Survey) Deloitte state “The message is clear: when looking at their career goals todays Millennials are just as interested in how a business develops its people and its contribution to society as they are in its products and profits.”

Leading and managing multi-generational workforces has not fundamentally changed. First it is about having a clear understanding of the purpose of the organisation and what is required to be successful. Next it is about learning and understanding what the organisations’ people value, what they need and what they would like. Last it is about synthesising these two sets of needs to create a vibrant, successful entity where, hopefully, people enjoy working.

While much is made about technology in the modern world, and the instantaneous inter-connectedness provided to all generations, peoples’ basic needs remain relatively consistent. People in organisations want their leaders to provide five key elements: a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, a sense of excitement, a sense of belief and, probably more than ever before, they want their leaders to be authentic with an ethos and values followers can believe in. Given the generational types and expectations there is a requirement for modern leaders and managers to engage ever more closely with their people. Carlos Goshn, CEO of Nissan, has said:  “Leaders of the future will also need to have a lot more empathy and sensitivity… They are going to need global empathy, which is a lot more difficult.”

Coaching and mentoring leadership styles work well in most walks of organisational life and today more than ever before these will be crucial approaches to engagement. However, coaching and mentoring require skill, time, energy, commitment and a willingness to provide guidance and impart knowledge. Preparing people for these more nuanced leadership and management roles will be both crucial and difficult. However, like the very best sports teams, those that can commit to this approach will secure stellar results.

How can managers effectively harness the human capital they bring to enhance operational effectiveness?

Gerard McGurk final cropped

Guest blogger: Gerard McGurk, Open University Business School MBA Alumnus and member of our Alumni Council,
Consular Regional Director – Middle East & North Africa at Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The workplace in 2015 is facing a unique opportunity (not challenge) in so far as it will have four generations (or waves) of employees (listed below). In 2015 what does this mean for employers of multi-generationals (whichever label they are given) in terms of recruitment, retention and motivation? How can managers effectively harness the human capital they bring to enhance operational effectiveness?

As global managers, we need to be careful about how we talk about multi-generational working. Most academic literature focuses on definitions of multi-generational employees from a North American or European perspective. It is a mistake to look to apply these to other regions in the world: the drivers and broader conditions (political and socio-economic) vary from country to country. The cultural dimension to multi-generational working therefore needs to be understood – both from a management and leadership perspective.

: born before 1945. Value hard work. Dislike for conflict and detailed orientated.

Baby Boomers: born between 1946-1964. Adaptive, goal-orientated with positive attitude.

Generation X: born late 1960’s – 1970’s. Independent, adaptable, resilient and family-orientated.

Millennials (Gen Y) – born between 1980’s and 1990’s. Creative, committed and loyal, accept diversity easily.

The continued existence of multi-generational working as both a concept and also a recurring theme for business and academic discussion demonstrates the extent to which there is no agreed approach. Thankfully these broad, sweeping descriptors don’t fully describe the wide range of experiences or knowledge that employees possess. Nor do I believe that these simplistic definitions act as the basis for managing across generations.

I should declare a strong affinity for the work of Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap and their 2005 article on “Deep Smarts” – the “stuff the produces that mysterious quality – good judgment”. Leonard and Swap argue that experience is the reason that deeply knowledgeable individuals make swift, smart decisions. In this context, the connection with the developmental principle of “70-20-10”, with the 70 representing the informal, on-the-job, experienced-based and practice, is relevant and needs to be appreciated more in terms of understanding how certain generations of employees integrate pattern based learning into their performance.

If we accept the proposition put forward by Nonaka and Takeuchi that knowledge and intellectual capital act as a company’s primary source of production and value, suggesting experience is a factor in value production, why is there still a level of tension between managing such pivotal contributors of organisational value? Why is there still a tendency to dwell on the differences between Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers rather than focus on common goals?
In my experience of working in a cross-cultural, multi-linguistic environment, there is little to be gained from the “divide and conquer” approach. No one size fits all – the world we live in is complex and diverse and management solutions cannot be framed to capture all possible instances in all locations. Broad principles may be applicable but the policy prescriptions need to be context specific.

Managing a multi-generational workplace undoubtedly has its challenges. However primary responsibility for turning this generational diversity into opportunity rests with managers first and foremost. It is critical that they get close to their employees – whatever their age – and understand what drives them. A tailored approach is likely to be more successful as it will have their personal motivation at the heart of the solution and will address their personal goals and needs.

Building collaborative partnerships is important. Creating blended teams enables mixed experience to be shared across age differences and support a common sense of purpose. Teams comprise of individuals working towards a shared goal. It is the skill-set, knowledge, commitment and dedication to that common goal that are key. Job shadowing, mentoring and coaching are also valid and support methods of developing cross-generational meaning and shared experiences – all with the purpose of adding value, be it organisational, personal or professional.

Inspire People to Dissolve Diversity

John BrookerGuest blogger: John Brooker, Open University Business School MBA Alumnus, Managing Director of Yes! And. John is a former Senior Vice President of Visa, author of ‘Innovate to Learn, Don’t Learn to Innovate’ and Board Member of the Association for the Quality Development of Solution Focused Consulting and Training.

This article suggests that people are not diverse because of their age, their race, their sex or any other attribute. They are diverse because of mental “walls”. It suggests that successful leaders can dissolve diversity and help people to achieve greater things by facilitating people to interact, co-design their future, take small steps and notice signs of progress.

“I never feel age…If you have creative work, you don’t have age or time.”
Louise Nevelson
(American sculptress, at 80 years of age)

Last year, I facilitated a group of young people in an innovation workshop in the Middle East. They felt that older, more senior managers rejected many of their ideas because the senior managers did not listen, were too set in their ways or were risk averse; or all three. Senior managers have told me that when they reject ideas from younger people it is often because they are poorly thought through, solve the wrong problem or are sold badly, due to inexperience.

There seems to be diversity of opinion between the age groups when it comes to innovation and many other topics in organisations, yet I doubt that it stems from age. I have met younger managers who did not listen, were set in their ways or were risk averse. A glance at the news proves that the young do not have a monopoly on poor thinking, solving the wrong problem and selling ideas badly.

If not age, what is the problem? I believe these type of issues arise because people work in a mental “room”, with “walls” they build from:

  • Assumptions that may be unwarranted
  • Egos (small, medium and large)
  • Prejudices
  • Fixed mind-sets.

Are these “walls” age related? I think not. Consider this. My daughter, 19, mentioned that at work in the office of a multi-national company, before university, she sometimes felt that she could not address people in an equal way because she was younger than them, “but that’s probably due to my mind-set.” I celebrate the sixth anniversary of “birthdays with a zero” this year; when I enter a room full of strangers of whatever age and I have no role (e.g. as a host), I feel trepidation. It’s not my age; rather, it’s my mind-set.

You could spend much time trying to understand and change the different assumptions, egos, prejudices and mind-set of any diverse group. I doubt you will move forward very quickly. Rather, I believe that successful leaders in organisations metaphorically “dissolve” these metaphorical walls. To do this, they engineer and stimulate interaction between diverse people, whether that diversity is age, race, gender or even job roles.

Successful leaders help diverse people to co-design a preferred future, where they work together successfully and achieve much. They encourage them to avoid blame, to seek what works well between them now and to focus on their positive differences and relative strengths, not weaknesses.

To create progress towards this co-designed future, they inspire people to take small steps and notice what changes. When people achieve progress, they inspire themselves and others to take more steps, notice more change, create yet more progress, in a virtuous circle.

When they are truly successful, leaders notice that people in their organisation no longer talk about, worry about or even celebrate diversity. Why? Because those very diverse people no longer notice it. May it happen to you.

Motivating a Multigenerational Workforce in the 21st Century

Originally posted on Longnecker & Associates blog.

One of the biggest challenges in companies today is how to successfully motivate employees. No other time in modern history has the corporate landscape been as diverse as it is now with multiple generations coming together in the workplace. There are four unique generations that make up today’s corporate culture: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. Each generation brings unique attitudes, expectations, and values that companies must be sensitive to in order to cultivate job satisfaction, retention, and ultimately, productivity. Understanding what makes each generation distinctive will prove positive when selecting the method or vehicle of motivation.

Traditionalists, born on or before 1945, became the definition of “America’s Values” based on their hard work, honesty, and dedication. They are reliable, value job titles, like to think they contributed toward the company’s overall success, and expect recognition for their loyalty.

Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are often referred to as the “Me” generation. Work is a high priority for them, perhaps the highest, which translates into long hours and stressful lives. They value teamwork, prefer a structured work environment and expect others around them to put in the same amount of effort and time.

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, have been credited by some as bringing work-life balance to the workplace creating a shift from the Baby Boomers work ethic as they transition into managerial roles. They prefer to work independently with minimal supervision, purpose to get fast results and thrive on opportunities to grow.

Generation Y or Millennials, born after 1980, are technologically savvy and desire to be recognized for their performance as a strong asset to the company. Unlike previous generations, this group is interested in change, prefers flexibility and thrives on having continuous short-term goals and deadlines. For some Millennials, the labor market is seen as a place to sell their skills to the highest bidder and they don’t mind moving from one company to another.

In the past, there has been an unspoken employment agreement between the worker and their employer. In return for job security, employers were guaranteed loyalty and commitment from their employee. In the new economy, this is a rare relationship to find. As employers announce layoffs, employees often leave for better opportunities. Ironically, as companies are declaring people as the most important asset, they are still treating them as disposable. Companies must focus on motivational practices that meet every employees need, regardless of age. This will allow for effective development, sustainability, and alignment of the overall objective, profitability. To ensure that employees of every generation are effectively engaged and integrated into a company’s culture, employees need to know and feel that they are welcome, wanted, and there for a purpose larger than themselves. The following mechanisms are designed to achieve those goals.

Attract to retain. For longevity, get the right candidate in the right position. Look beyond the candidate’s skill set to ensure that their work style and personality fit in the culture of the company.

Provide meaning and purpose in work. Employees need to understand the reason for the organization’s existence. Create a mission or simply a vision statement that each employee finds exciting and stimulating.

Provide work-life balance. Work with your employees to give them flexibility. Companies must recognize that employees have lives outside of the workplace. Whether you are talking about the single employee, married employee or the employee with a family, everyone is looking for the right balance between work and social life. The smartest companies will allow employees to manage their lives and their work schedule as long as goals are being met.

Share the rewards. Traditionally, the employee was paid for hours worked and not for what they produced, created or serviced. Today, value lies in the employee’s knowledge and skill set that makes a company’s innovations essential in the market place. Develop a compensation system that rewards the employee for individual goals met as well as company goals reached. Annual incentives and long-term incentives both play a vital role in attracting, retaining, and motivating employees of all generations. Employees want to be compensated for the value they deliver not just the hours they invest.

Engage the employee with customized rewards. Learning what motivates employees of different generations is a necessary process to keeping employees engaged in the company. Not all employees, especially those that are from different generations, have the same interests outside of work. Take time out to know what your employees enjoy doing; that way you can reward them with a meaningful non-cash award for a job well done.

Offer benefits for everyone. Health and welfare benefit plans come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you offer benefit plans with everyone in mind. Every generation has different priorities and needs, encourage employees to assess every benefit option offered by the company to find the best one for them.

Build relationships to last. The key to a successful work environment is the trust and confidence that you have in your fellow employees. There is no better way to foster trust than to develop personal relationships with other team members. Employees need to feel valued and happy working with those around them. Without internal support and strength throughout the organization, employee morale and even corporate performance can suffer.

Since every workplace is unique, there is certainly no exact formula to retaining employees. However, in an ever-changing corporate environment, it is important to recognize that there is much more than monetary motivation for this multigenerational workforce. Employees need to feel they are part of an organization that challenges, stimulates, and values them. By taking steps to establish a successful relationship with open communication between employer and employee, employees will be enriched as will the companies.

Challenges of age diversity at work

Katrina Pritchard (2)
Guest blogger: Dr Katrina Pritchard, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Studies at The Open University Business School. Dr Pritchard will be facilitating our forthcoming Business Perspectives masterclass in London in February.

Hardly a day goes by without the UK press highlighting issues associated with the changing age demographics of the UK population. My Open University colleague, Rebecca Whiting and I, are never short of materials to comment on in our daily blogs about Age at Work. For example, recently we have considered the announcement of ‘older worker champions’ at UK Job Centre’s to help the over-50’s develop ‘digital skills’, asking if this might perpetuate a stereotype of the older worker as less-IT proficient.

Despite having been on the media radar for the last few years, the challenges of age diversity at work are however poorly understood. Academic research has traditionally treated age as just a number. However ‘age’ is a significantly more complex than a chronological marker or membership of an alphabetically denoted generational category might suggest. For example, it is it is recognised that chronological age is at best a proxy measure (rather than a causal variable) for issues influencing work-related outcomes.

Moreover despite many consultancy-led reports highlighting challenges, there are few fora for managers to share practical experiences. Employers need to consider their legal obligations (avoiding age discrimination, for example), understand the potential implications of an age diverse workforce and also to consider how age-related stereotypes might present challenges to the achievement of organisational goals. Age related issues are often presented as a competition, between older and younger generations. Characteristics which are ascribed to generations are said to cause tensions at work, tensions which managers and leaders in age-diverse organisations need to address.

In this respect our Business Perspectives event provides a great opportunity to explore issues related to age diversity with insights from senior figures in the legal, automotive and health sectors. We are also delighted to welcome Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, whose mission is ‘Championing better work and working lives’. Alongside academic perspectives, our sessions will explore issues related to both younger and older working lives providing the much need opportunity to share insights and practical experiences with organisations for which age diversity is critical business issue.

Leading and managing in age diverse organisations

Join our latest Business Perspectives masterclass in London on Thursday 12 February 2015 and engage in the debate about issues of age and age diversity in the workplace.  Leading the event is Dr Katrina Pritchard, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Studies at The Open University Business School (OUBS).  She has a long standing interest in the issues faced by both older and younger workers, and how organisations and leaders can work to give these equal attention in the workplace.  Along with her colleague, Dr Rebecca Whiting, she writes the Age at Work blog and their research has recently featured in a Special Issue of the highly regarded academic journal Organization Studies.


We’ll be exploring issues related to age diversity from the perspective of those leading and managing contemporary organisations from the legal, automotive and health sectors.

Speakers include:

  • Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD – insights and perspectives from the organisation whose mission is ‘Championing better work and working lives’
  • Martin Hall, HR Manager at BMW – hear Martin’s extensive experience of managing a workforce spanning the full age spectrum
  • James Davies, Joint Head of Employment, Lewis Silkin LLP – offering a legal perspective on managing in age diverse organisations
  • Paul Deemer, Head of Equality, Diversity and Human Rights, NHS Employers – Age in the NHS: the Working Longer Review

Further information on all our speakers and details on how to register are available on our website.