multi generational workplace

Clash of the multi-generational workforce: Fact or fiction?

Theories abound regarding the gap that exists between the four generations who make up today's workforce and what they value in an employer. Conventional wisdom suggests that each generation's varying outlooks, beliefs and perspectives make it difficult to meet the needs of a wide range of workers.

Of course, each group has its own distinct characteristics based on its generation's life experiences. However, when it comes to work and what they seek in an employer, are their core beliefs really so radically different? Not according to the results of a new survey by Ricoh¹.

When it comes to generational differences, what was previously thought to be conflict is actually consensus: a desire to be more collaborative and create a corporate culture that actively demonstrates respect and inclusion for today's multi-generational workforce.

First, let's define today's generations who are working together:

  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946–1964

  • Generation X: Born 1965–1980

  • Generation Y: Born 1981–1995

  • Generation Z: Born 1996–Today

What's true is that for the first time in history, four generations — representing a wide range of ages — are working side-by-side. However, according to the data, which is based on a survey of 1,500 office-based workers across the United States and Canada, finds the generational divide in the workplace to be a myth.

According to the study, 71% of respondents find a cross-generational workplace to be an asset to a company and 76% of those same workers enjoy working alongside colleagues of different ages. It's no longer about just financial success. Workers from across the generations call on businesses to be a force for good and drive positive change in the world.

The current workforce, which consists of more generations than ever before, is unified. We're seeing a greater understanding that no action is too small to contribute to the bigger picture and therefore a realization that the collective impact businesses can have will be significant to helping ensure a better future for generations to come. In a time of often unpleasant news, this unification is a positive statement."

Donna Venable

Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Deputy General Manager, Shared Services

Ricoh Americas

By the numbers: What's important to workers

The combination of various generations is like two sides of the same coin. Flip this coin over, you might be in for a surprise: It's very similar.

Respondents are just as interested in how a business develops its people and how it contributes to society as they are in its products and profits.Findings include:

  • An average of 72% across all generations believe in their company's values and ideals.

  • Workers are personally invested in their workplaces, with an average of 59% across all generations viewing their work as a key factor in defining who they are as a person.

  • An average of 68% across all generations think the way the world does business will change dramatically in the next five to 10 years.

  • 65% of workers agree sustainability needs to be at the center of business and product strategies in the next five to 10 years.

  • 66% agree technology should play a central role in helping them work to the best of their abilities.

  • 74% believe that the best workplaces invest in digital technologies for up-skilling staff.

Make the most of multi-generation workers

Different generations, similar values

Ultimately, the generations are more similar than different, and focusing on these intersections will encourage understanding and productivity. We've put together four key pieces of advice, based on the survey findings:

1. Make use of smarter workplace technology

66% of workers want workplace tech to help them perform their best. The right tech will improve agility, make efficiencies, streamline processes and ultimately empower workers to spend time on the things that matter. This is the principle behind Ricoh's Business Process Outsourcing Services. By automating manual tasks and digitizing processes, we're able to free up workers to focus on more productive and creative tasks, like delivering an excellent experience to their customers.

2. Flexibility is key

A multi-generation workplace contains lots of different preferences and perspectives that don't always follow generational lines. It's crucial to allow workers to move between the new and the old as it suits them. We developed our RICOH Always Current Technology for this exact reason. It's completely customizable to the changing needs of your business as users can download and install new applications, features and upgrades as they become available – without needing to replace or update the original device. This empowers your workplace to scale capabilities based on the latest needs of all your workers.

3. Foster the full potential of talented individuals

There's talent in every peer group. The trick is to seize and support it. This means allowing your employees to work however and wherever they're most productive. RICOH Smart Integration offers enterprise grade cloud-based document workflow applications, so businesses can enable workers to carry out tasks from any device in their home or the office.

4. Responsibility first

68% of workers across all generations agree the way the world does business will change dramatically. At Ricoh, we're taking action by supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including a commitment to reducing our CO2 emissions to zero by 2050.

As today's workplace demographic expands, it opens up more opportunity for innovation, collaboration and success. After all, we all have more in common than originally thought. As the multi-generational workforce unites, together, we're on the road to achieving great things.

¹ This report is based on a survey of 1,500 office-based employees across North America. The survey was conducted by Coleman Parkes and commissioned by Ricoh.