The Blog

Meet the Multi-Generational Workforce

To drive important change will require a new approach and style of leadership, as we move from more autocratic traditional models of authority to more collaborative styles that believes in the power of the collective team.
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We live in interesting times -- where the world of work is changing. We're entering an era of purpose driven organizations (like Patagonia, TOMS and IDEO), where organizational structures are becoming flatter (like Zappos introducing Holacracy) and where leadership demands greater collaboration.

There are a number of drivers of these changes. Global shifts -- such as population growth, the rise of mega-cities, shifting economic power, climate change, natural resource degradation and food security -- not only demand new thinking but will also change how business and communities work together. The Tech Revolution will help provide new ways to solve these problems and provide new ways for individuals, small teams and large organizations to connect and collaborate, enabling us not just to work harder but also smarter.

Yet, as companies race to leverage technology, they'll need to remember that at its heart, work and business are about people and we are entering, what Herman Miller, called a 'generation bending era'. As the overall population ages in industrialized countries, mature workers are staying in employment longer due to better health and lower-than-expected retirement savings. Yet at the same time Millennials will eventually make up the majority of the workforce, accounting for 75% of the global workforce by 2025.

The challenge will be how best to perfect the blend -- accommodating age and experience, while catering to Millennial employees' expectations for Purpose-driven organizations, innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities. To do so companies will need to make operational and structural changes to support workers in all stages of life. These will include changes in compensation, promotion and training structures, as well as output and productivity expectations.

These changes will not always be straightforward to implement and have the potential to cause both financial implications as well as unhealthy tension. For example, delaying retirement may increase payroll and benefit costs, younger workers may find that there's a leadership and progression ceiling and more mature workers may be befuddled by, and have skills gaps, arising from technology changes. .

So yes, there are challenges but there's also an opportunity. This is an era of unprecedented diversity in our workforce. Businesses that can effectively leverage this multi-generational workforce will benefit from diversity of thinking, creativity and innovation and will be at the cusp of building the dynamic companies of the future.

To do so will require a new approach and style of leadership, as we move from more autocratic traditional models of authority to more collaborative styles that believes in the power of the collective team. We will explore that more in out next blog post.

The B Team & Virgin Unite have created a report on New Ways of Working to help organizations understand the changes to the world of work, as part of its Challenge to 'Create Thriving Communities: Listen to the needs of your employees and create environments that help them thrive.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the B Team to mark the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting 2015 (in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan. 21-24). The B Team is a not-for-profit initiative formed by a global group of leaders to create a future where the purpose of business is to be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit. Read all the posts in the series here.