There have been countless studies about the generational gap between Gen X and millennial workers, with the topic stirring up much debate to this day. Broadly speaking, Gen X are born between 1965 and 1980 and are currently 41 to 56 years of age. Millennials are born between 1981 and 1996, ranging between 25 to 40 years of age.
With the Movement Control Order (MCO) forcing many businesses to operate remotely, many millennials took to the situation like a duck to water thanks to their digital savviness and familiarity with
remote working tools. However, with offices reopening after the MCO was lifted, many now find themselves at a crossroads and are often reluctant to return to a centralised workspace.
“The reality of the matter is that employees were forced to adapt to the culture of working from home, and just as they got accustomed, it is now time to revert to the old ways of working with added restrictions – the SOPS,” says Rita Krishnan, the managing director and training consultant of Impian Helang.
To her, CEOs and management of any company will return to the office and face new challenges, some of which they have never dealt with in the past thanks to the unprecedented effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In the past, it was performance and productivity that mattered most for organisational growth,” she recalls. “But today, compassion with high
emotional intelligence is crucial, being the way forward in managing the workforce, especially in retaining the talents.”
In Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z survey, it was found that only 38% of millennials felt comfortable voicing concerns to supervisors about work stress.
This suggests that many are unable to trust or anticipate a clash with higher ups about the rigours of work. A correlation can be drawn to 31% of millennials taking time off work due to pandemic-related stress and anxiety. According to the survey, almost half of them gave a different reason to their employers, likely due to a stigma around mental health at work.
It is no surprise that CEOs and senior management figures today must be more well-rounded figures – able to lead and dissect numerical patterns as well as business strategy, but being able to relate to their subordinates on a more personal level rather than simply boss and employee. However, the difference in age can often mean that there is a clash in culture and expectations.
The topic is widely documented and debated, with both sides often convinced that they are not compatible with the other. This often boils down to a mismatch in terms of ideology, with Gen X workers likely to espouse more traditional work values, while Gen Y or millennials subscribe to more flexible or unconventional working mantras.
“Generally, Gen X are hard workers while Gen Y are smart workers,” she postures. “Gen X do not jump jobs and are comfortable with where they are. This may seem like the safer option but can also be dangerous as career progression is not usually an option.”
What about the retirees?
For all the talk of Gen X v s millennials, the pandemic has also depleted the savings of many retirees. This has resulted in an influx of retirees in their fifties and sixties re-entering the job market, but who may be under the impression that time has left them behind. However, Krishnan believes retirees have much to offer in terms of their knowledge and experience, and suggests that there are many job opportunities for such individuals.
“Training and consultancy in sharing a wealth of knowledge, experience and skills that were useful then and useful now,” she shares.
The experience accumulated by such individuals suggests that within them is a treasure trove brimming with a wealth of knowledge; they simply need to leverage this into potential job opportunities.
“I believe in reinventing and recycling talents that upholds the reputation of recreating past performance. This is where retirees can attend the HRD Corp Certified Train-The- Trainer programme, for a new career altogether whilst recreating and reliving the successes of their past,” adds Krishnan.
Job hopping a competitive disadvantage?
Krishnan also suggests that the typical Gen Y employee prefers to job hop often in order to gain experience quicker as well as to be exposed to various industries. While she does not dismiss this career strategy, she highlights that it also has its pros and cons.
“Employers are reluctant to invest in and develop employees who show no promise of ‘stayability’,” Krishnan explains.
“The working style of Gen Y comes with the mindset of expectations – less work, more pay, with flexi hours.”
This shift in mindset is evidenced by concrete data. The Deloitte survey indicated that job loyalty is slipping among millennials, with 36% of respondents open to leaving their current employer within two years if the opportunity arose, a drop from 31% in last year’s survey. However, 34% of millennials say they would only consider leaving after five years, which suggests it is not prudent for senior managers to paint the entire generation with the same brush.
She believes that, although difficult, this difference in culture and expectations can be bridged with programmes that facilitate interaction between Gen X and millennials.
“It is important to allow employees to explore their skills and abilities with the intervention through team bonding programmes where Gen X and Gen Y can interact and learn from each other,” says Krishnan.
These types of considerations should be taken into account by HR departments, especially when it comes to upskilling the workforce, an area in which Krishnan is well-versed.
“The pandemic has altered traditional training styles, and the responsibility of the HR department would be to select relevant training programmes related to industry needs,” she says.
“At the same, employees’ morale and productivity levels can be elevated using positive reinforcement.”
She is also a keen advocate for companies to develop a psychological connection with their employees, resulting in a relationship that presents “a sense of belonging”. This demonstrates the company caring about their employees’ personal development and workforce growth. Such a result would inevitably translate into a win-win situation for both company and employees.