LinkedIn's Opportunity Index reveals that it is a less than opportune time for youths of the workforce - and are multigenerational workforces really the answer in the workplace?
Nothing hallmarks the cornerstone of adulthood more than securing a job and facing a lifetime of bills head on. For those on the precipice of earning your own bread and butter, what are some of the things we expect from it?
Work-life balance, workplace autonomy, flexibility and being able to pursue one’s passions are some of the cookie-cutter answers that would come to mind for those of our generation, and for good reasons. However, can employers provide all these things? In our desire to earn our keeps, have we considered what the keepers of our purse strings want?
LinkedIn’s recent Opportunity Index is a composite measure with the goal of helping to manage the expectations between employers and employees, and the barriers that stand in the way of us climbing / crawling the career ladder. The goal is to find the sweet spot between both employers and employees.
So, what did the company claim are our tallest walls to scale in our attempts to reach for the stars? The 20-page report can be distilled into three answers – ageism, networks and climate change.
Age, and the experience that comes with it (or the lack thereof pertaining to the tech sector) are the top opportunity gulfs facing Gen Zs. They feel that the year on their passports alone affects leadership opportunities, individual autonomy, as well as equal opportunities for growth.
To add barbed wires to insuperable walls, the presence of strong professional networks (i.e. knowing all the right people) trails closely behind as the second top obstacle after perceived ageism. Many of those surveyed understand that while qualifications and experience matter, the extra vantage of securing a job, or the opportunities that come with it, sometimes come from pulling the right strings.
Globally, 76% respondents subscribe to this belief, but only 22% are actively sourcing for networking and mentorship opportunities, citing the difficulty in overcoming the lack of professional networks. (Cue LinkedIn’s casual segue way as the number 1 choice of being the bridge between you and your dreams - as the de-facto platform for connecting networks.)
As the Index aptly lays it out – “The environment sustains everything in the world and thus is directly linked to future opportunities” – pretty much their way of saying, if the earth is to cash in its chips any time soon, all bets are off.
The Recommended Way Forward (Or Up the Career Ladder)
Turns out, millennials and Gen Zs’ are not the only ones worried about ageism. The same fear rings true for those on the other end of the spectrum. There seems to be an equal reluctance in employers’ readiness to embrace the senior workforce due to the perception that they lack the disposition towards technological skills in a landscape that demands for it.
On this note, LinkedIn proposes that a multigenerational workforce could be the key antidote in being the footbridge from one end of these opportunity gulfs to another.
“The biggest skills gaps that we see today are soft skills among gen Z and millennials, and tech skills among the older generation. We encourage companies to hire for complementary skills and to promote collaboration and bi-directional mentorship among their workforce,” LinkedIn Asia Pacific Managing Director, Olivier Legrand, confidently asserts.
Indeed, multigenerational workforces have become an opportunity for businesses across the globe to make the melting pot of generations work. LinkedIn encourages businesses to foster an inclusive workforce that goes beyond age-based biases (on both ends) to embrace this reality. In this vein, it could hopefully nurture a work environment that allows different age groups to complement one another in terms of skills and experiences.
That being said, as per every boardroom session, one-size-fits-all solutions are often easier pitched than done. Different generations of workers harbour different work aspirations and working styles. For example, Baby Boomers desire job security and “grinding your way to the top”, while Millennials look out more for a sense of purpose and fulfilment, and tend to undertake more collaborative approaches in their tasks.
Making a multigenerational workforce work requires the careful calibration of all these different needs, work values and communication styles. To streamline and standardize all these workplace vagaries will take an amazingly tall feat (and a competent HR department).
However, regardless of whether or not it is feasible, the multigenerational workforce will be here to stay. Rapid ageing in most Asian Tiger countries puts extra strain on our labour forces. In the case of South Korea, it is projected that come 2050, there will be just 1.5 workers supporting each elderly person, a sharp increase from 2015’s number of 5.1. Perhaps then, the question is not whether multigenerational workforces are the answer – but rather, how do we foster one that brings out the productivity and potential in everyone?
On the management front, team leaders can front more effort in teasing out and understanding the various kinds of differences in their team makeup and dynamics – for example, how each individual prefers information and feedback to be conveyed and recognized, and tailor their management styles accordingly. A good handle on these minutiae of variations can be a springboard in cobbling together an effective team composed of different generations and dynamics.
Value what different people bring to the plate - and what they don’t
Differences don’t just exist across the categorized generations, but within each of the predominant four workplace archetypes (Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Zs). In essence, discrepancies can happen anywhere – whether it becomes a hotbed for friction or learning depends not just on team leaders but their openness to each other as well.
Rather than trying to stamp out the discords, try to value the inevitable conflict, which is not about pitting one against the other, but being able to debate and understand differences in opinions. For that to happen, a work environment that actively facilitates such conversations has to be present – because when people feel safe to discuss these discrepancies, the more perspectives (and doors) it can open.