When you have 5 generations under 1 roof, 1 size does not fit all

In a typical week, I speak to dozens of my Schneider colleagues from around the world. Invariably, there will be some who talk about their kids, some who’re looking for the best Instagrammable restaurant to try, planning their next hike, or wondering what to buy their grandkids for their first birthdays.

What’s clear from these interactions is that everyone has a different reason for getting up each morning. They have different ways of learning and ways of working. Reaching a large group of employees from varied backgrounds and unique experiences requires careful thought. For each individual to thrive, there needs to be something in place that suits them all.

When we hear the word “diversity”, most of us tend to think about classifications that are frequently in the public conversation such as gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. But age and generational representation, too, are forms of diversity – and important ones at that.

Because so many of us live and work longer than before, the global workforce now spans a whopping five generations – from teenagers starting their first jobs, right through to the so-called silent generation born between 1925-1945, and now in their 70s or older. This is something that we see at Schneider Electric too.

With a diverse workforce like that, it’s no surprise that there’s a huge range of motivations, drivers, and needs. And when it comes to helping them manage work-life integration, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

The latest generation entering the workforce offers a unique contribution. Generation Z is made of digital natives – those born into a world already changed by the internet – and can bring real value to customers and colleagues by developing fresh ideas and sparking innovation specific to the digital world.

Some might argue that having wide age disparity within a company might hinder innovation – that only younger people bring new ideas while more seasoned colleagues stick to what has worked in the past.

I disagree. A multigenerational workforce provides not only social but business benefits as well. In fact, research backs up this view. A December 2020 report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Promoting an Age-Inclusive Workforce showcased how age inclusion can provide a competitive advantage. The research projects that multigenerational workforces will be more efficient and productive, leading to a more profitable economy by raising per capita GDP by 19% over the next three decades.

In other words: Inclusiveness of all kinds – including generational diversity – is not just the right thing to do, it makes business sense too. At Schneider, we aim to foster learning, upskilling, and development for each generation to pave the way for the next.

Our initiatives and policies include:

  • Doubling the number of opportunities for internships, apprenticeships, and fresh graduate hires.
  • Continuing our Go Green student competition, where students propose bold approaches to solving energy issues, which now has over 25,000 registered students from 128 countries.
  • Ensuring systematic career reviews and development plans for all employees 10 years before retirement
  • Providing digital upskilling programs for employees.
  • Supporting local Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) that offer training programs for underprivileged young people.

Great diversity brings great opportunities – socially and for business.

Every generation brings something special to the table. It’s our job to put tools in place to motivate and draw out the best from everybody – whether they are 17 years old or 70. Speak to your employees and leadership teams. Get their perspectives and put different initiatives in place like upskilling opportunities for colleagues at all stages of their careers, flexible working options for new parents, supporting cross-generational knowledge sharing, and mutual mentoring or retirement planning for those nearing the end of their working years. Remember, one size won’t fit them all.

Read more about our sustainability commitments, including how we are harnessing the power of all generations.

Events to look out for…

  • Youth Skills Day – July 15
  • Earth Overshot Day July 29
  • International Youth Day August 15

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