Thursday, July 12, 2007

Recognizing Four Stages of Age in the Wokplace for the Multigenerational Workforce

According to a new paper published by the Center on Aging and Work/Workplace Flexibility at Boston College, in response to the age demographics of the 21st century workforce, employers have started to consider how age diversity can offer both opportunities as well as challenges to “getting the work done well.”

Authored by Center Directors Drs. Michael A. Smyer and Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, "The 21st Century Multi-Generational Workplace," the paper suggests that there are four different ways to look at age in the workplace and each can prompt different responses:
  • Age: "Using the perspective of chronological age helps employers to answer the questions, 'How does typical adult development affect the performance of young adult employees, employees at mid-life, and older employees?'”
  • Generation: "Looking at age from the perspective of generation can be a helpful, short-hand way to factor-in historical events or culture that may have a long-lasting impact on a specific age cohort."
  • Life Course: This "perspective focuses attention on individuals’ 'personal histories' in the context of the wider social-historical-cultural context."
  • Career Stage: Not all employees experience careers as a steady upward progression, so that employers can "engage employees in conversations about the next opportunities appropriate for their careers-–regardless of the employee’s age."
In conclusion, Smyer and Pitt-Catsouphes offer this advice to employers:
The effective management of a multi-generational talent pool requires that employers are able to adjust their thinking so that they can make appropriate use of the four paradigms of age . . . . Each of these helps employers to ask different questions and to think about different strategies for harnessing the experiences of all their employees.
Source: Center on Aging and Work/Workplace Flexibility
Issue Brief No. 9 (June 2007)

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