Getting the most from a multi-generational workforce

Getting the most from a multi-generational workforce

Creating success starts with recognising diverse motivations and needs

It only takes a quick look around the office to see that the workforces of Thailand-based organisations are more diverse than ever. There is a never-before-seen mix of generations collaborating and combining worldviews to create value. But how much are we really doing to help them succeed, and how much is left to chance?

A recent Harvard Business Review survey found that 68% of organisations globally have have initiated cross-generational training programmes, recognising the benefits of a diverse workforce. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 62% of employers provide flexible work arrangements to attract and retain older workers, showcasing a growing trend towards inclusivity.

How do you train your leaders to get the best from your multi-generational workforce? How do you train your most experienced people to maximise the work of a generation with different expectations? How do you train your high-potential young people to work best with more experienced peers who grew up in a world their young colleagues do not understand?

I think it is time for organisations here to look at their people practices. The business case is clear, in terms of the competitive advantage they can create. Capitalising on the strengths and values of different generations is necessary, but leaders must create a conducive and productive work environment, so innovation, productivity and overall success are possible. It is not difficult, but it requires actual planning and deliberate effort.

Take the time to ensure the people who need to really understand generational differences: We all think we understand what each other wants, but it is well worth investing time in understanding the characteristics, values and preferences of each generation.

Really understanding this diversity is a critical step in creating success. You could run surveys or focus groups to gather insights from employees of different generations. Also, provide training for managers on effectively managing a multi-generational team. Some organisations have created forums for open dialogue and encouraged employees to share their perspectives and experiences.

Deliberately create cross-generational collaboration opportunities: All too often this involves younger people joining teams led by more seasoned staff, and can be seen as tokenism. Instead, create initiatives that put younger people in charge with older staff contributing. I have served on a few of these myself, reporting to younger staff, and it has been eye-opening to learn how they do things differently. Consider mentorship programmes where younger employees can learn from more experienced colleagues, and where younger employees mentor older colleagues on topics like technology.

Recognise success: It is too easy to get caught up in the flavour of the month or the latest exciting thing. Make sure you recognise and celebrate achievements at every career stage and check your assumptions about what each generation values in terms of career progression and success. The world has changed a lot recently.

Remember, people want opportunities for career development and advancement based on individual skills and capabilities rather than age. Flexible work arrangements that allow employees to balance their personal and professional lives are different but not exclusive to any generation.

Take wellness seriously: Physical and mental health needs are a concern that crosses generational boundaries. Some organisations offer workshops and seminars on stress management, work-life balance, and mental health awareness. I met a young lady recently whose startup was helping Thai organisations with counselling services. We are all under pressure, but leaders must encourage employees to take regular breaks and vacations to recharge and prevent burnout.

Reimagine your leadership team: Consider representatives from different generations. This is a sure way to inclusive and informed decisions that consider a broad range of perspectives. You may need to customise leadership development programmes and encourage senior leaders to mentor and sponsor younger employees.

Bridging generational differences, overcoming resistance to change, addressing communication barriers, bridging the technology gap, and balancing work-life expectations are all going to be challenges. However, the workforce will continue to evolve, so adapting your people practices is essential to ensure you remain competitive and successful.

HR must play a significant role in educating employees, but it is the leaders who must implement strategies to turn a multi-generational workforce into innovation, productivity and success.

It starts with understanding generational differences, encouraging collaboration and valuing contributions. If leaders do not take this seriously, they will fail to attract the top talent they need for long-term success.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer, Managing Director, and Founder at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Centre. She is fascinated by the challenge of transforming education for all to create better prospects for Thais and people everywhere. Reach her email at or

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