Business dynamics in a multi-generational world

We are privileged to exist in an unparalleled era. Our concern for improving health conditions led to many remarkable strides in science and technology that significantly enhanced life expectancy. They contributed to a unique phenomenon where five generations (reference: Pew Research Center Generational Categories) are living and working side by side, coexisting in this world, each bringing their own set of experiences, insights, and perspectives.

The conversations had always been about the growing challenge for organizations to manage a multi-generational workforce but while this is a critical issue given the growing complexity of workforce issues, the business implications go beyond that. The markets/customer bases are now multi-generational, the priorities in terms of reforms and legislations are multi-generational, the political climates, governance, and a host of other interests are influenced by multi-generational concerns.

The stable, financially prudent and cautious “Silent” Generation (1928-1945) whose struggles made them risk-averse, value stability expressed in conformity and adherence to tradition.

The confident and self-assured Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are great believers in hard work and in relationship-building as the paths to achieving life goals.

The resilient and independent Generation X (1965-1980) experienced a period of economic uncertainty, and this made them prepared to adapt to changes.

The creative, progressive, tech-savvy and mission-driven Generation Y or Millennials (1981-1996) value purpose and a strong social development agenda in what they do.

The collaborative Generation Z (1997-2012) are digital natives that embrace diversity and find their own unique identities.

And now comes the digitally empowered Generation Alpha (those born after 2012, our 12-year-olds and younger) who are making their presence felt. They are the first generation to experience remote classrooms, streaming services, and portable digital devices from early childhood. They are the ones most affected by the decisions the five preceding generations made and will make today, because these will affect their future.

The five generations carry significant implications in a company and with its external stakeholders, which include customers, shareholders, suppliers, and the broader community. They require businesses to adopt flexible and inclusive approaches, tailoring strategies, products, and services to meet the diverse needs and preferences of each generation while embracing technological advancements and social trends that are now the keys to success across industries moving forward.

Strategic implications to consider:

• Business is no longer usual. The preferences and needs of different generations vary and are increasingly experiential. Companies may need to adapt their products and services to cater across different generation-specific touchpoints, offering more features, customization options, or service delivery methods to appeal to diverse and more discriminating customer segments.

• Expanded marketing channels. While segmenting markets and selecting appropriate marketing channels still work, non-traditional cross-sections will need to be considered — generational preferences, and the use of targeted messaging, imagery, and content. Where before there were just tri-media to consider, the rise of social media platforms now influences how products and services are perceived. Companies must tailor their marketing strategies to effectively reach and engage consumers across different generations, in the shape and form that resonate with them.

• To tech or not to tech. There are varying levels of comfort and proficiency with technology across generations. The use of products and services requires communication styles and user-friendly interfaces that customers can understand and apply.

• Plugging the needs and gaps. Generational diversity can open opportunities for innovations in products and services development, business strategies, and marketing directions. The unique needs of each generation can help in identifying gaps that companies can leverage to differentiate themselves from competitors and capture bigger market share.

Within the organizations, a multi-generational workforce can be a management challenge, but they can also bring advantages to the table.

• The diverse perspectives of multiple generations can lead to better understanding of the markets, more innovative ideas and solutions, and creative marketing directions.

• Companies can create opportunities for cross-generational mentorship that can fuse wisdom, energy, and passion among the workforces. It may even help address mental health issues when guidance and counseling can be provided by the more senior members of the organization.

•Positive perception of the company can be enhanced because it demonstrates inclusivity and responsiveness to the diverse needs of different generations of the workforce.

Workplace policies and practices need to be adaptive when managing a multi-generational workforce, however. These may include flexible work arrangements, training and development programs tailored to different learning styles, and recognition and incentives that resonate with the preferences of each generation. Leadership training programs should be geared towards developing leaders that can work amidst generational differences in values, work styles, and communication preferences to foster collaboration and harmony within the organization.

Each of the generational segments are movements by themselves — the stability and resilience of the Silent Generation, the social responsibility for the Baby Boomers, the efficiency and productivity issues of the Gen X, the mission-oriented Millennials, the tech-driven Gen Zs, and the Gen Alpha born natives of a digital world. Nevertheless, we must be mindful to avoid stereotyping because while those born within those periods exhibit similarities in attitudes and predispositions, people change as they age, mature, and undergo life’s transitions.

The idea is to highlight how each can complement one another’s strengths and weaknesses, instead of focusing on the differences. The imperative is to create a symphony of strategies in five movements so that we can hear and see a beautiful composition that merges all the diverse images each element weaves into this masterpiece we call life.

By understanding multi-generational attributes, companies can craft strategies to navigate the complexities of an evolving marketplace, seize opportunities for growth, and maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly interconnected, collaborative and fast-paced business landscape.

Join the 22nd International CEO Conference of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) which will tackle the challenges and opportunities in a multi-generational world with its theme “Business in Five Movements: Wisdom, Passion and Inspiration Across Multiple Generations” on Sept. 10, Tuesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Grand Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Manila in BGC, Taguig City. Register now to avail of early bird rates. For particulars, contact the MAP Secretariat via <map@map.org.ph>.

 

Alma Rita R. Jimenez is the vice-chair of the MAP CEO Conference Committee, the chair of the MAP Trade, Investments and Tourism Committee, the president and CEO of Health Solutions Corp., and is a former undersecretary of the Department of Tourism.

map@map.org.ph