Author: INSPIRER project

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Attracting different generations to the labour market

Today’s multigenerational employee teams consist often of four different generations, i.e.:

  • Gen Z (born 1997-2012),
  • Millennials (1981-1996),
  • Gen X (1965-1980) as well as
  • Boomers II (1955-1964).

The EU Green Paper on Ageing[1] published in January 2021 states the EU’s working-age population has decreased during recent years. In order to avoid future labour shortages and a subsequent subsiding of well-being in Europe, it is vital to bring more people into the labour market and to enable longer individual working lives.

What potential target groups need to be addressed to increase their labour-market participation? Are they highly represented in a specific generation?

  • Gen Z:                               People with migrant background
  • Millennials:                       Parents
  • Gen X:                               Carers
  • Boomers II:                       Older workers
  • All generations:               People with disabilities, Women

What kind of support do these groups need to increase their labour-market participation?

Apart from the legal requirements (e.g. work permit, right of residence), people with a migrational background need a workplace that ensures the individually required education and training, as well as personal support. This goes on to entail a working environment that not only promotes but is also respectful of diversity.

Parents and carers both tend to other family members and for that reason have similar needs. Due to their family responsibilities, they themselves are usually not very flexible in terms of place of employment and working hours, they are not able to work full-time and often need flexible working time arrangements at short notice. In order to support these vulnerable groups and to encourage a better sharing of caring responsibilities between women and men, a new EU directive on work-life balance for parents and carers entered into force in July 2019[2].

The motivation for older workers to continue working is highly dependent on their individual financial situation and health condition. Due to lower state pensions, many pensioners in Europe have to work in order to meet their living costs. At the same time, initial research reports show that the introduction of actuarial deductions encourages older employees to continue working and postpone the pension benefit claiming date[3]. However, workers in non-physically demanding jobs opted for this more often than those working in white-collar jobs – a fact that may be related to health reasons.

People with disabilities require individual solutions in terms of place of work, working hours, working environment and facilities, as well as technical and personal support. If these conditions are met, they can develop their full working capacity and become long-term employees. Active company diversity management will ensure their permanent well-being at the workplace.

Many women are mothers and carers for family members, but not all. Children may have grown up, but women face problems that prevent a return to the labour market: balancing a full-time job and household, commuting to work without affording an extra car, as well as skill obsolescence or skill gaps, in particular with digital skills, are some of the obstacles. Individual training and lifelong learning, part-time arrangements and digital work settings are suitable employer offers that will attract females. More women in the labour market will not only close the gender gap in society, but bring in important team skills. Scientific research showed that gender-mixed teams, in particular those with female leaders, gain better results than homogeneous male or female teams. Women are better at managing finances and resources, female employees or managers show more empathy, which can lead to a better team atmosphere, and women tend to be more level-headed in difficult situations.[4]

Therefore, there is potential in Europe to attract more people from all generations to the labour market.

Get inspired by best practice examples from EU Member States:





Attitudes of various generations at the workplace

At present, there are five different generations working at the same time on the labour market side by side. In our days the most influential ones are Generation X,Y and Z. As each of these  generations prepare themselves to play a dominant role in the global economy, there have been numerous studies and researches  written by academics, businesspeople and policymakers on what motivates and demotivates these generations at work, what working styles characterize them and what leadership patterns are to be expected from their members.

The article entitled  “Building leaders for the next decade (How to support the workplace goals of GenX, Gen Y and GenZ)” authored by Henrik Bresman and Vinika D Rao is part of a a series called Generations – research study (by Universum, INSEAD, HEAD Foundation and MIT) of what generations think about employers and the workplace worldwide. The research results in this series are based on an annual survey of over 18,000 respondents from members of GenX, Y and Z.  The research sheds light on preferred work styles, leadership qualities, hopes and fears about future careers, and the technologies with the highest potential for workplace innovation.

The introductory part of the article analizes the attitudes of various generations picturing in a cloud of words the more typical attributes the generation members claim about themselves and other generations.

Gen Z

Generations X and Y  tend to label Generation Z as “lazy” , however many more labels are there, this is the most outstanding one, and surprisingly it is the label that appears in the focus of their own wordcloud, too of Gen Zers. However,  being curious, eager and ambitious are also key words on each chart. 

Generation Z perception


Similarly, Generation Y also chooses “lazy” as a top descriptor of itself, as well as “motivated” and “ambitious” are mentioned in equal parts. Genration X agrees with these labels on the millenials. However,  the younger generation characterizes millennials as  hardworking, determined and motivated.

Generation Y perception


Generation X is the kindest with itself, using words like “ambitious,” “hardworking” and “driven.” Younger generations, however, use labels like “tired” and “bored” to describe Gen Xers.

Generation X perception

Engagement in a 5 generation teams… Do we need it? Is it possible?

Employee engagement is the strongest driver for a great performance. Engaged employees is the main company asset and the basis for being competitive and successful in any market. It is up to leaders to build a good working atmosphere, include and empower their teams, offer recognition, build a culture of feedback, and give a purpose and sense of belonging to the employees. This certainly is a challenge…. And let’s not forget, nowadays we are working with multigenerational teams where there are 5 generations in the working place.

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Is multigenerational workforce an asset?

Ageing population is a long-term development that has been transforming the global economy. It has been apparent for several decades in Europe and in other parts of the world. By 2050, the number of people in the European Union aged 75-84 years is projected to expand by 56.1 percent. At the same time, there will be 13.5 % fewer people aged less than 55 years living in the EU.[1] Ageing populations are rising because of the rise of life expectancy and the declining birth rates. Society is shifting.

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