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How to Design an Inclusive Workplace for Multi-Generational Workforce- Baby boomers, Gen X , Y and Z?


We are ushering in new era of four generations working together at once with first of Generation Z turning 22 years old. What do we really know about the psychological differences amongst the generations and its impact on workplace?

A local study shown that HR and business executives in Singapore predict multi-generational workforce as one of the top 3 disruptors regardless of their organisation size. About 78% perceive multi-generation team as the most disruptive.

As organisation grows to be more team-centric, enabling multi-generational teams to work better together, be more productive becomes a key focus. Before jumping into solutioning, it is essential to learn more about each generation.

1. Baby Boomers are retiring in the next 20 years

Aged between 54 to 73, they witnessed Singapore’s growth from third-world to first and lived through economy recessions. They believe in dedication, hard work, loyalty, commitment and sacrifice. However, they are beginning to seek more flexibility either to care for elderly parents or to find work beyond the traditional retirement age.

2. Gen X are the largest group of supervisors

Aged between 43 to 53, Gen X grew up during Singapore’s rapid economic growth in the 1970s to early 1980s. They are the largest group of supervisors in the workforce. They cherish relationship and work-life balance.

“ Design should never start with the physical, until you have deeply understood what the needs of the people are. We now refer to it as human-centered design. “

Robyn Lindsey Geyer Partner & Innovation Thought Leader

3. Gen Y or Millennials are feeling the pressure to care for their young children and ageing parents

Gen Y are aged between 23 to 42. Majority might have already started their own families and are feeling the pressure to balance both work and family commitment like caring for their young children and ageing parents.  As they grew up in digital age, they continue to embrace technology in workplace for greater work efficiency.

4. Gen Z, the digital natives are entering the workforce

The oldest Gen Z in the workforce is about 22 years old. They yearn to make an impact in the organisation and the world while seeking their own financial independence. They are highly engaged and adaptable towards technology in the workplace. They love opportunities to grow their career.

An inclusive workplace should make diverse groups of employees feel valued, respected, integrated, included with equal access to opportunities for learning, career advancement and meaningful work contributions. The effort to make workplace inclusive is not an easy feat- even big, reputable companies like Starbucks sacrificed their revenue with more than 8,000 of its stores closing early on 29 May 2018 to provide 4-hours of anti-bias training to their employees across the U.S.

So how could other organisation do it without hurting the balance sheet? Below are few tips you can start right away.

Create Mentorship & Personal Connections

As we recognise each generation strengths and their work experience, there definitely present opportunities for the more senior executives to pair with the younger employees in a reverse mentoring or a typical mentorship programme. These programme create more personal connection across generations, departments or work functions and further introduce an inclusive workplace culture of continued learning, sharing new perspectives and experience.

Provides Equal Staff Development & Training Opportunities

The more organisations provide opportunities for employees to develop their skills, the more engaged they will be. Of course, all four generations required different training approaches like e-learning, workshop training or on-the-job training, whichever best suit their learning styles.

Organise Workplace Activities Fit for Multi-Generations

Workplace activities like Sports Day, Family Day or even group volunteering can be a powerful way to develop collaboration and trust amongst employees. The value of having fun in the workplace is also reinforced through these team building events. Just be mindful in organising activities that fit for all generations.

Promote Work- Life Balance

Every generations we see are in different phase of their life. It is important for organisation and the management to recognise that their employees need support to fulfill their roles outside work. Be it at HR policy or management levels, it could be providing child-care leave, remote/flexible working arrangement or corporate wellness benefits (see also: Exclusive Corporate Wellness Package on spaceSense.co, provided by ClassPass ). These organisational effort to promote work-life balance will go a long way in attracting talents and retaining committed employees.

Create Meaningful Work and Recognise Contributions

Needless to say, every individual likes to feel appreciated and be recognised for the impact they have on the organisation, the industry or even the society. Their sense of work achievement could even last longer than their paycheck.

Adopt the Right Technology

Working hours are no longer fixed. To keep up in business, collaboration has to be performed faster than ever. The challenge is picking the right technology that works well for all generations. Without good intuitive technology coupled with adequate training, the senior generations might find it a lot more hassle to perform at work using these technology. Ultimately, adopting technology at work is to make remote working or flexible working hours possible and effective on any devices. (see also: latest technology like interactive display screens)Design Physical Workplace to Empower

Office space design has moved beyond the open desk concept to the flexible, agile style that can support different generations, working styles and job functions. There should be considerations for Collaboration work, Focused individual work, Social spaces for unplanned conversation, as well as Wellness spaces like designated corner for quick recharge, a healthy snack bar to promote healthy eating, or even a Mothers’ Lounge/ Nursing Room to help working and breastfeeding possible. (see also: Get Quote for Your Office Design)

As organisation make efforts to build cross-generational bridges, the employees engagement level will be simultaneously stimulated and therefore, there will be positive impact to the bottom line and the organisation’s success. According to Gallup, a highly engaged teams show dramatically higher job retention rates, lower absenteeism, higher productivity and greater profitability.

Creating an inclusive workplace is a continuous process. Stay committed.

About the Author

Eunice Ooi | Cofounder | spaceSense.co 
As the Cofounder of spaceSense, a commercial property tech company, Eunice designs the use of technology to help companies find, set up and manage their office space easily. She has more than 10 years of experience in project management with the Defence Science and Technology Agency, CBRE and GIC. A NAFA-certified interior designer, Eunice has also executed more than S$100 million in project value, delivering workplaces for big corporations. Eunice graduated with First Class Honours in Master of Engineering, Imperial College London.



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