How Different Generations Adapt to the Changing World of Work

Unique skills and experiences equip workers in distinct ways to the sudden changes in the global workforce.

Older workers have responded to countless changes throughout their careers. Younger workers have grown up as digital natives. Those in the middle of their careers have endured and learned from economic downturns. 

In many ways, we’ve all been preparing to meet these challenges in different ways. Here are how all generations can adapt to working virtually. 

Harnessing learnability 
None of us expected to need to learn several new digital programs seemingly overnight to connect, collaborate and manage colleagues. But the skill of Learnability — the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable throughout working life — becomes key in this setting. According to ManpowerGroup research, the vast majority of Millennials see skills development as an important part of their careers. Learnability is also central to adapting to this moment. 

Motivated by challenge  
They are most motivated by purpose and challenging work. We’re talking about Boomers and workers over the age of 65. This may come as a surprise to some, but younger employees aren’t the only ones that highly value meaningful work. According to ManpowerGroup research, the Boomer workforce seeks challenging and purposeful work –– and today we are at a crossroads of exactly that type of global situation. 

Being flexible 
Working from Home (WFH) or Work from Wherever (WFW) was already becoming mainstream among Millennials before businesses and governments started mandating it for safety. For years, Millennials have been at the forefront of re-defining the next generation of work. A study about Millennial Careers from Right Management found that Millennials are motivated in part by flexible work arrangements. Today, that has become the norm and helped level the playing field.  

Leveraging experience 
Today many healthcare workers are coming out of retirement to help when the demand is most needed. Other industries can leverage this experience too as many “boomerang” workers are coming back after retirement. This time of transition brings opportunities for mid-career, late-career and even retirees to return and help as they are needed.  

While each generation may find themselves challenged in different ways to the shifts in work, they should also be reminded that they have unique skills that can help them adapt. And when help is needed, it could be as simple as reaching out to a colleague from another background. 

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