Business needs to wake up to the 4G (four generation) challenge

By Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy @ben_willmott 


The UKCES has today launched a comprehensive report on the Future of Work. The report identifies several different economic scenarios, all of which are plausible but impossible to predict if, when or how they will play out.


One thing that is for sure, however, is that the workforce will become increasingly age diverse. Or, as the UKCES have coined it, we’ll have a 4G (four generation) workforce.


Diversity in all its guises is certainly good news for business – with a great variety of perspectives and skill sets, greater things can be achieved. But, managing an age diverse workforce does not come without its challenges.


For one thing, many more businesses will need to embrace flexible working in order to meet increasing demand from different parts of a multigenerational workforce. Younger people will likely demand a greater work-life balance, and greater flexibility will be expected by both mums and dads and as well as the growing number of workers who will also be looking after ageing parents or relatives. At the same time, older workers will need and demand more flexible routes into retirement, looking to downshift and work fewer hours rather than simply seeing retirement as a full stop to their working lives.


Our research on flexible working shows that most flexible working is still restricted to part-time working or flexi-time - unless you are a manager, in which case you are more likely to have access to things like working from home or other forms of remote or mobile working. Practices like job share, term time working, mobile or remote working are still the exception for most employees. Many business leaders are still suspicious of flexible working, perhaps because of workplace cultures where managers judge productivity based on bums on seats, and many managers are not yet equipped with the skills required to manage flexible workers.


Flexible working is just one of the implications of an increasingly age diverse workforce. Our research report out later this month will explore in more depth some of the challenges and opportunities for employees, HR professionals and line managers. Keep an eye on our research home page or press office page for more details.

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