UK workplaces will soon have up to five different generations working together side by side for the very first time (Meister & Willyerd 2009). From Traditionalists, born before 1945, to the incoming Generation 2020s, born after 1997, people from 17 to 70+ will be working in the same organisations and collaborating in the same teams. Managers will be faced with the challenge of leading staff from across these five different generations in a dynamic, fast-moving and challenging work environment.

We’re also heading towards a serious talent and skills shortage in a number of sectors. The number of young people coming into the workforce is insufficient to meet the needs of the future, while the number of older people remaining in work for longer periods grows with the abolition of the default retirement age (DRA) – around 90% of the current workforce will still be in work in the next decade (UKCES 2014a). If the demand for new, skilled and educated talent will outstrip supply by 2020 in the UK and many parts of the world (James 2013), are older workers a potentially untapped source of future labour – the nation’s hidden talent pool?

For this research, we looked most closely at the three generations occupying most of the current management positions – Baby Boomers (born 1945–1964), Generation X (born 1965–1979) and Millennials (born 1980–1997). These groups range from managers leading their first team to those leading whole departments and organisations. We wanted to discover how these generations worked together and what, if any, discrimination is occurring – as well as finding out if any of them held the key to tackling the looming talent gap.

Charles Elvin CEO, Institute of Leadership & Management

Untapped Talent: Can over 50s bridge the leadership skills gap?
Baby Boomers (aged 51–70) are seen as loyal, skilled and knowledgeable members of the workforce – but they aren’t viewed by their colleagues and managers as the ‘organisational stars’ of the future, and they are perceived as having little potential for further progression or development in their organisations.
Report findings
• Baby Boomers have vital knowledge and talent
• Baby Boomers aren’t seen to have the potential to progress
• Multi-generational teams are the new normal
• There are perceptions that different generations have different skills
• Generation X appear to be the most critical of all groups – including their own
While Baby Boomer managers are largely respected and valued in their organisations, there are still common misconceptions concerning skills and attributes. Dispelling these generational myths is an important first step to capitalising on and developing older talent.
• Recognise the benefits of an age diverse workforce
• Give ‘experience’ a name
• Everyone can keep learning
• Use coaching to support experienced workers
• Don’t lose the experience – create a network of alumni

Culled from Institute of Leadership & Management.
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