Success Through Intergenerational Management

By Prof. Dr. Wilfried Schlüter, WHZ University of Applied Sciences (Sachsen, Germany) and Prof. Dr. Katharina Oleksiw, Carinthia University of Applied Sciences (Kärnten, Austria )

The Intergenerational Management approach is gaining ever greater significance against the background of demographic development. Making the best possible use of the existing workforce potential is key due to the declining labour force potential. Giving due consideration to the specific skills and competencies of the different generations working within an organisation and knowing their attitudes, values and life circumstances can help executives open up new room for manuevre. Workforce potential can be further developed and put to more effective use by, for instance, forming mixed-aged teams that combine the experience of older team members with the new skills of younger members. Promoting inclusive working conditions for all age groups can commit employees to the organization for longer while enabling the residential care home to present itself in a more attractive manner to new employees. Intergenerational Management can also contribute towards the prevention of personnel bottlenecks in this way.

Intergenerational Management and the formation of mixed-aged teams are necessarily based on a sound knowledge of the current age structure of the organisation’s employees. The following questions can help interpret the corresponding data:

  • How will the workforce change over the next 6 months, 3, 5 and 10 years?

  • What new appointments are planned?

  • What fluctuation rate should be assumed?

  • How many employees will retire?

These questions are also helpful if a forecast of further developments is required in addition to establishing the current age structure. An age structure forecast is an early indicator as to whether the workforce is likely to be younger, older, smaller or larger in the coming years. These forecasts provide additional information from which necessary measures can be derived. Examples of concrete measures include:

  • Developing a concept for recruiting younger employees of the Y and Z generations

  • Initiating employee retention measures

  • Establishing a corporate health management system (also for younger employees)

  • Enabling the transfer of knowledge

Historic and societal events and experiences leave their mark on every generation and influence the biography of the individual. In turn, they influence the attitude towards work and behaviours in the workplace. This is why executives need to consider the values, needs and workplace requirements of different generations in addition to the aspects named in the preceding (also cp. table).

Economic miracle generation

1945 – 1955

Baby boomers

1956 – 1965

Generation X

1966 – 1985

Generation Y

1986 – 1995

Generation Z

as of 1995

The formation of teams should commence as soon as information is levied on how each generation is represented numerically within the organisation. The resulting cooperation has numerous advantages that have a positive effect on the organisation:

  • Improved team climate: Targeted and more intensive cooperation strengthens the sense of belonging.

  • Improved ability to solve problems: Mixing different experiences and skills enables complex approaches to tackling tasks.

  • Increased capacity for innovation: Again, mixing different attitudes and perspectives increases creativity.

  • Transfer of knowledge in both directions: The exchange of experience-based knowledge and new theoretical knowledge promotes the development of each individual involved in a project.

The options of team-forming within the organisation are virtually unlimited and are not bound by any rules. Ultimately, executives need to decide which form of cooperation they consider to be the most expedient for different projects.

You can learn more about Intergenerational Management at the 2017 Global Ageing Network/CURAVIVA Global Ageing Conference in Montreux, Switzlerland. On Wednesday, 20th of September, Dr. Wilfried Schlueter and Dr. Katharina Oleksiw will present six steps designed to provide guidance on how leadership skills can be extended towards the expression of “generational leadership.” Register here.

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