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Kiwis embrace age-diverse workforces, but communication needs work

22 Aug 2018

The New Zealand Government predicts that a quarter of the country’s workforce will be aged 55 or older by 2020, and businesses will be able to reap those rewards.

Randstad’s latest Workmonitor research says that New Zealanders prefer age-diverse and multigenerational teams, which hints that age may not matter in the workplace anymore.

The research shows that 88% of 678 polled respondents say they prefer working as a multigenerational team (10-15 years age difference), while 83% say that businesses with age-diverse teams come up with more innovative ideas and solutions.

The most common sectors that embrace age diversity include general business (95%), education (95%), and construction (92%).

According to RiseSmart Australia and New Zealand’s executive practice director Nan Dow, many Kiwis are working in an environment that manages up to five generations of workers.

Dow says that a workforce culture that brings out the best across all generations can provide competitive advantage. This is because customers are diverse so an employee base that reflects that diversity can relate to customers’ needs.

“These generational differences are quite literally the ‘future of work’ and having such a rich and diverse talent pool can be a huge advantage for businesses. In order to create a positive culture that gets work done, businesses need to encourage employees to look beyond preconceived stereotypes and bias.”

More than half (56%) of Kiwis feel that younger employees have more opportunities for career progression than older workers, and 48% believe that the generations are treated differently by managers.

Chorus OD advisor Phillippa Powell explains that multigenerational collaboration is important for unlocking creativity and problem solving within projects.

“Having a diverse range of ages also helps us to relate to our customer base. Millennials and younger employees provide new skills and ideas which are essential in the telco industry as technology continues to evolve. Mature workers are also a highly skilled and valued group of people. Their substantial technical and specialist expertise means they can share knowledge and act as mentors for our younger workforce,” Powell explains.

The research also found that 86% of respondents say it doesn’t matter how old their direct manager is, as long as they are inspirational. 79% believe managers must be talented at working across generations, and 76% believes their manager cares about their career opportunities. However, 61% prefer that their manager is older than themselves.

Workplace communication still needs some work, with 18% of those aged between 18-34 having trouble communicating with workers who aren’t from their generation. Only 13% of those aged 45-67 had the same concerns.

“Our study found that 75 percent of Kiwis believe the way we communicate is one of the biggest differences within multi-generational workforces,” comments Randstad New Zealand country director Katherine Swan.

“An example of where we see this is during the recruitment process. Most people forget their target audience. Different demographics should be aware of contrasting communications styles that are expected and appropriate within the workplace, this includes different formats, media, regularity of communications and appropriate terminology.”

Swan says people can overcome these challenges by seeking advice from an industry expert or mentor who can review CVs and conduct mock interviews. This can help people to present themselves in an authentic and appropriate way.

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