The power of multigenerational workforces
In a tight labour market, sensible FM companies are making the most of existing talent by recruiting from a range of generations...
Facilities management is a perhaps unique industry in that it offers a huge array of different career paths, from cleaning to concierge services, operational to soft skills – and because qualifications are not necessarily a barrier to entry, it can offer opportunities to young people entering the work force and older people looking to supplement retirement incomes alike. As such, FM is no stranger to multigenerational workforces – and this is something that is likely to become even more commonplace, not just within the industry, but within the wider labour force.
In the Spring Budget, the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, introduced a raft of measures aimed at getting the over-50s to return to the workplace. This generation, aged 50 to 64, left the labour force in large numbers during the pandemic, with data cited by the Institute of Fiscal Studies finding that the majority gave ‘retirement’ as their reason for leaving the workforce. However, this exodus of older workers has contributed to the workforce becoming severely depleted – 80% of 5,000 firms recently surveyed by the British Chamber of Commerce stated that they were struggling to find staff.
Hunt’s measures to lure back older workers included scrapping the lifetime allowance on pensions and introducing ‘returnership’ reskilling schemes. However, although there’s data suggesting that there’s some evidence of retirees returning work, perhaps driven by the cost-of-living crisis, it’s a long way off from the million workers that Hunt hoped to return to the workforce.
One of the key barriers that prevents older people from remaining in work is ageism. The BBC reported recently how over-50s feel their usefulness has passed in the workplace. To make matters worse, the CMI has reported that only 18% of managers say they were open to a large extent to hiring people in the 65+ age category – and with women’s earning power peaking at 44 and men’s earning power peaking at 55, according to research by Payscale, it does seem that older workers are seen as being of lower value than their younger colleagues.
At the other end of the scale, Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) are currently entering the workplace. Millenials (born between 1981 and 1996) are currently the largest workforce population on the globe. These two groups are very much culture-driven, wanting to work for organisations that speak to their values. Sustainability is also extremely important to them – and organisations hoping to attract young talent, within FM as well as other sectors, are increasingly aware of this and ensuring they are offering attractive and inclusive working cultures.
From a management perspective, juggling the differing expectations of a multigenerational workforce can be a challenge. But, as Niki Fuchs, CEO at Office Space in Town, points out, it brings with it opportunities, too, giving employers access to a wide range of talent. “Multi-generational workforces create an opportunity to capitalise on the unique set of skills and experiences that comes with each generation while offering business continuity as succession plans mature.”
Sophie Grant, Principle Strategy Consultant at office design and build experts Peldon Rose, agrees. “Understanding each generation can seem complex, but it is helpful to acknowledge that each is made up of individuals with their own unique expectations of the workplace experience,” she says. “Despite nuances within each group, there are similarities within each generation, and by understanding the common desires and requirements from the workplace, an ecosystem of spaces that effectively cater to different needs can be designed.”
Peldon Rose believes that flexible office space is one of the ways that management can create inclusive multigenerational workspaces. “Flexibility is key for teams that span multiple generations, but the definition of flexibility will differ for each,” Sophie explains. “For example, recent research from Gensler indicates that younger workers value the office for its productivity and want to be in an environment that encourages socialising, connections, and communities – so collaborative multi-purpose spaces are vital for their day-to-day. However, the research indicates that older colleagues find home working more comfortable for focused work, as they may have access to a home office, so it’s important the office also caters for this quiet individual style, through dedicated pods or quiet spaces, alongside provisions for hybrid meetings.”
Another way companies can maximise the opportunities of a multigenerational workforce is through their flexible work offering. According to research from insurer Zurich UK, one in five UK adults over 50 avoid new job opportunities due to lack of flexible working – indeed, a third would remain part of the workforce if this was available. “It is vital for businesses to exhibit flexibility in accommodating the diverse requirements and preferences of employees – this can mean introducing flexible policies and even considering flexible office spaces which can enable staff to work in their preferred way while offering both privacy and collaboration to encourage creativity and innovation amongst multi-generational teams. It means not subscribing to a “one-size-fits-all” approach and creating workspaces that don’t simply respond to the latest fads, but meet the needs of a diversity of workers,” says Niki.
Training, too, is key. “Introducing initiatives like mentorship programmes that connect employees from different generations can facilitate a rich exchange of knowledge, and when done in conjunction with a range of professional development training and opportunities that cater to the unique professional needs of each generational group, can create an environment that celebrates the diverse experiences and values employees from every generation,” Niki says.
She also believes companies need to be reviewing their onboarding strategies. “Another way companies can support intergenerational workforces is by fostering inclusive company cultures and embracing diversity in their hiring practices,” she says. “This entails actively seeking out candidates from a variety of age groups, ensuring that the recruitment process is free from age-based bias, and encouraging a workplace atmosphere that champions collaboration, respect and appreciation for the contributions of each generational cohort.”
Companies who make the effort to accommodate multigenerational benefits will end up reaping the rewards. “Ultimately, there is much to be gained from a multi-generational workplace, and employers who celebrate a diversity of skills and experience will prosper,” Sophie states.
Case study: On Verve
Bianca Angelico, Director and Chief DayMaker at On Verve, the specialist guest services provider, prides herself on running a people-oriented business by prioritising values that their clients are looking for such as personable, approachable, and kind-natured people.
The first DayMaker Bianca hired was 52-year-old Sarah. Her experience was based in sales, but she felt she’d never found her place in the industry. When she read the DayMaker role description, she knew instantly it was right for her. Sarah says: “Working with On Verve reignited my confidence and gave me back my self-belief. As you get older, those qualities can start to fade.”
In 2021, Bianca introduced Ingrid to the team. She was friendly, had a great energy and a willingness to learn – but at 57 had limited computer skills. However, Bianca and her team knew that Ingrid fit the On Verve culture.
Since Ingrid was onboarded, she has received computer training, and has relaxed into her role at On Verve with ease. Bianca says: “We believe in finding DayMakers like Ingrid who have an innate desire to help others; skills can be taught, but who you are can’t be. What our clients want from a guest service provider has changed since the pandemic, hence the title ‘DayMaker’, as we aim to make people’s day through our services.”