Understanding Generations now a business issue

September 22, 2015

Sodexo Ireland hosts generational diversity in business event in Dublin.

Understanding Generations now a business issue

An inability to attract Generation Y workers could leave some companies very vulnerable said a leading organisational psychologist at the ‘Talkin’ bout Generations' on Tuesday 22nd September at All-Hallows College in Drumcondra.

The United Nations categorises the working age population into four generations, each of whom has a different expectation and experience of the workplace: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y.

At the Talking ‘bout Generations event, Clare Mulligan, a Work and Organisational Psychologist specialising in intergenerational differences in the workplace, spoke of some of the very real risks facing organizations that fail to tackle the issue. She said, “We are starting to see the effects of the demographic shift in our workforces, for example in most OECD countries more people are leaving our workforces than joining them. A lot of organisations that haven’t recruited for the last decade are facing knowledge gaps as staff leave without enough younger generations to pass on their knowledge and experience to.”

“Generation Y want to know about organisations and see recommendations before they go to work for one. They want to feel that the work they do will have some meaning and that they will have an input to decisions and thinking. However, the people making the hire decisions are often Generation X and Baby Boomers who are more used to careers being managed differently so are not adapting to thinking about the needs of Generation Y enough, or indeed the needs of the growing generation diverse talent pool,” Clare continued.

Executives from leading Irish organisations also heard about the launch of Sodexo’s awad-winning ‘Generations’ employee network to help staff understand the personal and professional development needs of those four generations and how they interact with each other.

Stephen Marshall, Generations workstream leader said “Sodexo UK and Ireland has a Diversity & Inclusion strategy that focuses on six key areas – generations, gender, sexual orientation, culture and origins, disability and inclusion. By encouraging our employees and our clients to recognise how someone’s generation can influence their views and values, we can promote better communication and a happier, more engaged workplace for everyone.”

Sodexo employees are based primarily on client sites, meaning less access to their own dedicated meeting spaces than other large companies. To address this, Stephen helped to develop the ‘GenMatch’ Game which allows local managers to introduce their teams to the subject of generational differences in an informal, fun way. Attendees at the workshop in All Hallows also got a chance to play it for themselves.

Margot Slattery, country president, Sodexo Ireland, said, “The differences between generations can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication but if we raise awareness of those differences and harness people’s individuality, it can have a huge impact on the way we work together and help us perform better as a business. That is why we have the different focus areas; to help us all better understand the people we work with and make us more effective.”

Sodexo Ireland, part of the global Sodexo Group the world’s largest services company, delivers services that improve the quality of life to clients in business and industry, education, financial and healthcare. It employs approximately 2,000 staff in 200 locations across Ireland, serves 90,000 people daily and spends almost €19 million annually on local Irish food.

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