5 persons sitting around a table, one of them in a wheelchair

Diversity equals different perspectives

According to the United Nations, a key component for an inclusive workplace is the prioritization of diversity in the company’s culture. As such, the strongest scenario for the plan’s success is the recruitment of a workforce regardless of age, gender, language, sexual orientation, and other factors that could have negative reactions at any other time. 

Managing a diverse workplace is difficult as it requires the collaboration of people with different views and backgrounds, especially when it comes to the cooperation of the aged workforce and the younger generation. 

“Diversity and inclusion are not something that just happen because it is in your mission statement. It takes hard work” 
    – Irene Natividad, President of GlobeWomen Research and Education Institute 

Regardless of this, it is the same diversity that provides benefits and leads to the promotion of each company among others in the industry. Therefore, when a company finds a way to handle this diversity effectively, then it will present the following benefits: 

  • Innovation in implementation of ideas 
  • Multicultural environment: link to a diverse source of clients in the market. It helps understand the decision-making factors of other nations 
  • Multi diverse work environment: better at interpreting information in different ways about the company 
  • Different ideas for solutions that target people from specific cultural and educational backgrounds 
  • Different language skills for global customers 
  • Different points of view and approaches in corporate practices 

“Conversation about diversity is not just an ideal to strive for, but a practical necessity. In fact, in the 21st century it is urgent for the survival of humanity…” 
    – Karim-Aly Kassam, Professor at Cornell University  

Woman in front of laptop

New work arrangements – a question of age?

The contact restrictions were a successful measure to combat the COVID 19 pandemic. Thus, within a short time, the private home became the new work environment for many employees in Europe. In many countries, employers were obliged by law to enable and support telework or mobile work from home.

Eurofound defines telework as a “work arrangement in which work is performed outside a default place of work, normally the employer’s premises, by means of information and communication technologies (ICT). […] Mobile work could be considered a variation of telework.” (Eurofound, 2022)

Some facts:

  • “In 2020, 12% of employed people aged 20-64 in the EU usually worked from home, while this share had remained constant at around 5 or 6% over the past decade.” (Eurostat 2021)
  • “Until the outbreak of the pandemic, telework had mostly been used by high-skilled workers who do most of their work on computers, enjoy high degrees of autonomy, and are employed in knowledge-intensive activities. […] Beyond the nature of their work, high rates of teleworking before the pandemic among some professionals may also reflect the extent to which they performed informal overtime work at home” (European Commission, Science for Policy Briefs, 2020)
  • “At EU level, the share of employed people who usually or sometimes[1] work from home greatly increased from 14.6 % to 24.4 % between 2019 and 2021” (Eurostat 2022a)
  • “In 2021, employed people with a high education level are more likely to (sometimes or usually) work from home (43.9 % of people working from home) than employed people with a low (6.4 %) or medium level of education (14.7 %). Women with a low or a medium level of education were more likely to (usually or sometimes) work from home than their male counterparts. The EU Member States show very disparate situations among employed people working from home. In the Netherlands, Sweden and Luxembourg, more than 45 % of employed people (usually or sometimes) worked from home in 2021, while less than 10 % did so in Bulgaria and Romania.” (Eurostat 2022b)
  • It is more vulnerable groups of the workforce, including those with low skills, as well as those lacking digital skills – who are more likely to lose their jobs due to the impact of the pandemic (EU-Digital Skills and Jobs Platform, 2021)

Obviously, the job profile and basic digital skills need to be in place in order to work from home. Men and women use mobile working at different levels. Furthermore, differences can be identified between European countries. But wouldn’t one actually also expect the scientific evaluations to find a discrepancy between age groups in companies? One imagines that young digital natives – laptop on the knees and a cappuccino beside – consider mobile work as individual liberty and independence, while older workers long for the traditional office environment.

On the contrary, Eurofound found that considering the whole workforce, 60% of workers would like to work from home (daily or several times a week) after the pandemic, 71% of employees reported that they were satisfied with working from home. Levels of satisfaction were notably high among those who were teleworking for 35 to 40 hours per week and those aged over 50 years old.(Eurofound, 2021). A LinkedIn evaluation also shows that two age groups are particularly often looking for such job offers: Members of Generation Z and the Baby Boomer Generation – i.e. the youngest and oldest employees in a workforce look for remote jobs. What could be the reasons for this? Perhaps Baby Boomer applicants are less mobile or they are looking for management positions. Generation Z applicants, on the other hand, are often more experienced with technology and virtual collaboration – both of which are essential for remote jobs. (LinkedIn, 2022)

However, what are employers’ attitudes to these new work arrangements?

The pandemic has introduced innovations and transformations that cannot simply be abolished. “It is widely agreed that the pandemic has had a significant impact on work organisation practices and managerial culture. As time goes on, it is likely that telework and a flexible approach to work organisation will become a more prominent and permanent feature for employers and employees.” (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2021).

Politics are supporting new work arrangements such as telework or mobile work in many European countries. By March 2021, there were legal changes in Italy, Luxembourg, Latvia, Slovakia and Spain, many other countries, like Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Germany, Malta, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia, were reviewing their correspondent national legislation (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2022).

There are some major issues for employers:

  • Location and Rooms

During the pandemic, businesses continued to make expensive rent or mortgage payments for their office space. In case, not all the employees will return to the office in the future it is time to consider some changes: “A survey of 278 executives by McKinsey in August 2020 found that on average, they planned to reduce office space by 30 percent. Demand for restaurants and retail in downtown areas and for public transportation may decline as a result.” (McKinsey Global Institute, 2021). If there is a trend towards moving away from city centres, property prices will also fall as a result, meaning that office space will be worth much less in the future.

  • Work organisation

The work organisation for managers will be more challenging as they will have to keep track of everyone – the ones working in the office and the remote workers. It is not just possible to initiate an ad-hoc face-to-face meeting but long-term planning and monitoring of work results are the new key tasks of managers. (Forbes, 2021)

  • Recruiting

Moving office does not just mean that the rents are lower, in less costly zones employers may attract a skilled workforce that cannot afford to move to expensive cities (McKinsey Global Institute, 2021). An analysis of recent LinkedIn data also suggests that companies offering remote work can achieve more diversity in terms of age, education and gender in the workforce. Compared to men, women are significantly more likely to apply for remote jobs (LinkedIn 2022)

Age is an aspect that often is not even considered in company diversity. But those who focus on a multigenerational workforce can strengthen the company through valuable perspectives – and new work arrangements for all. Mobile working has advantages for employees, companies – and even for the society: More widespread telework has the potential to increase productivity, improve work-life balance and reduce emissions (OECD, 2021). A majority of respondents to the European Investment Bank’s Climate Survey think that post-COVID economic recovery should take into account the climate crisis (European Investment Bank, 2021). So let us go for more mobile work – with all generations!

Ressources

Eurofound, 2021

https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/article/2021/workers-want-to-telework-but-long-working-hours-isolation-and-inadequate-equipment-must-be-tackled

Eurofound, 2022

https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/topic/teleworking

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2021

https://euagenda.eu/upload/publications/telework–20post-covid.pdf

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2022

https://healthy-workplaces.eu/en/media-centre/news/teleworking-regulations-are-changing-so-what-do-employers-need-know

European Commission, Science for Policy Briefs, 2020

https://joint-research-centre.ec.europa.eu/document/download/1ccf7717-ab52-4215-b14a-08d74e9d44fc_en

European Investment Bank, 2021

https://www.eib.org/en/stories/telework-and-the-green-recovery

Eurostat 2021

https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/de/web/products-eurostat-news/-/ddn-20210923-1#:~:text=In%202020%2C%2012%25%20of%20employed,6%25%20over%20the%20past%20decade.

Eurostat 2022a

https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Employment_-_annual_statistics

Eurostat 2022b

https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Employment_-_annual_statistics#Remote_work:_disparities_by_country_and_level_of_education

EU-Digital Skills and Jobs Platform, 2021)

https://digital-skills-jobs.europa.eu/en/latest/news/digital-skills-way-safeguard-jobs-snapshot-cedefops-job-loss-covid-19-2021-report

Forbes 2021

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2021/08/17/the-real-reasons-why-companies-dont-want-you-to-work-remotely/

LinkedIn 2022

https://de.linkedin.com/business/talent/resources/women-and-genz-more-likley-to-apply-for-remote-work-cont-fact

McKinsey Global Institute, 2021

https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-future-of-work-after-covid-19

OECD, 2021

https://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/teleworking-in-the-covid-19-pandemic-trends-and-prospects-72a416b6/


[1] Note that ‘usually working at home’ means doing any productive work related to the current job at home for at least half of the days worked in a reference period of 4 weeks, and ‘sometimes working at home’ means the same but for at least 1 hour in the reference period of 4 weeks (and less than half of the days worked).

BalanceForBetter slogan held by a woman

“Work that Fits Your Life” initiative of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise

We believe that work shouldn’t be your life—work should fit your life.” – ALAN MAY, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT & CHIEF PEOPLE OFFICER, Hewlett Packard Enterprise[i]

In this blog post a brief picture is given on an initiative announced by Hewlett-Packard in April 2019, the “Work that Fits Your Life” initiative.

“Our ‘Work That Fits Your Life’ program centers on life outside of work, so our people can focus on what matters most to them at different times in their lives—whether they’re growing their family, reentering the workforce, or nearing retirement. With this program, HPE is leading the way in workplace flexibility, family leave, and returnships.” – Alan May, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, HPE [ii]

As part of the ‘Work That Fits Your Life’ initiative, the following innovations have been introduced at HPE:
 

Wellness Fridays to promote overall health and well-being by leaving work early once a month so people can take time out for themselvesEnhanced Family Leave to provide a minimum of six months fully paid leave for moms and dads after the birth or adoption of a child.
Parental Transition Support for parents who want to return gradually by working part-time for up to 36 months after the birth or adoption of a child.Retirement Transition Support for those within a year of retirement who want to ease into it by working part-time, for however long they and their leader agree.
Career Reboot with job opportunities and training at HPE for people who left the workforce for an extended period; for example, to raise a child. [iii] 

Carrier return is not easy. Any company who recognises this and creates a return-to-work programme will be of great help to those who are temporarily out of work for whatever reason, and may find dedicated employees who are grateful for the help they receive. They also help workers at the aggregate level, and a well-qualified worker can return to a position that matches his/her skills and previous experience, rather than being forced to accept a lower-skilled position because of the absence.

What exactly is the HPE Carrier Reboot Program?

Those individuals could apply for the program, who had at least five years of experience and have been out of the labour market for at least 12 months. The program offers:

  • A temporary assignment of up to 12 weeks.
  • Online training to update the candidate’s technical knowledge and skills.
  • Mentoring, buddy programs and other forms of networking support.
  • The possibility to apply for a full-time job at the end of the assignment.

These quotations taken from the announcement of the program at the website of Path Forward, an organisation that supports HPE in their Carrier Reboot program is outstandingly positive. It describes the intention behind the whole program, and the quotation shows the dedication, which is really good reading for anyone who supports diversity and inclusion in the workplace:

“At Hewlett Packard Enterprise, our people are at the heart of what we do. It’s why we offer benefits that help our employees be their best and love what they do. It’s also why we offer Career Reboot—an industry-leading benefit that allows for a smoother, more confident transition back to work. … We are a company strengthened by people of different ethnicities, cultures, generations, abilities, education levels, sexual orientation, and gender identities. We believe that innovation is the by-product of an inclusive and diverse workplace. Behind every one of our breakthrough technology solutions is a group of thinkers, individuals who examine our customers’ challenges from different perspectives and every possible angle. Our inclusive culture recognizes brilliance in all forms and emphasizes the inherent worth of unique traits. In fact, we consider inclusion and diversity to be one of our strongest business assets as well as one of the most valued aspects of our culture. At HPE, you can bring your full self, everything that makes you unique, to work every day.”[iv]

The whole programme is very welcome, and the HPE’s willingness to spearhead the necessary social change initiative is also very commendable. It will certainly have a big impact that one of the largest multinationals on earth has recognised and acknowledged that there are times in the lives of employees (mostly women) when their lives cannot be about work. And that is right. However, as soon as this period is over, these (female) workers would return to work and a bridging programme is needed to ensure a smooth return. HPE, to everyone’s delight, has recognised this need and has been at the forefront of change with its Work that Fits Your Life and Carrier Reboot initiatives. We hope that many others will follow suit, and to sum up, congratulations, HPE!

The opinions of the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Consortium


[i] https://www.hpe.com/us/en/newsroom/blog-post/2019/04/leading-the-way-in-workplace-flexibility.html

[ii] https://www.pathforward.org/your-path-forward-at-hpe/

[iii] https://www.hpe.com/us/en/newsroom/blog-post/2019/04/leading-the-way-in-workplace-flexibility.html

[iv] https://www.pathforward.org/your-path-forward-at-hpe/

Quels sont les obstacles auxquels les travailleurs âgés sont confrontés ?

Il devient de plus en plus compliqué pour les travailleurs âgés de s’épanouir sur le lieu de travail en raison de sérieux problèmes qu’il convient de résoudre. Les principaux problèmes sont la discrimination fondée sur l’âge, l’insuffisance des possibilités de formation, le fait de travailler tout en gérant sa santé, le cumul de l’exercice des fonctions officielles et la planification financière de la retraite.


Les employés vieillissants pensent que leur santé physique, leur état cognitif et leur compréhension des nouvelles technologies sont des obstacles à leur engagement continu sur le lieu de travail [1].


La réduction des performances est un autre défi. Elle est fréquemment attribuée à l’obsolescence des compétences, et souvent, les travailleurs âgés sont moins incités par leurs managers, principalement plus jeunes, à participer à des formations pour améliorer leurs aptitudes et leurs compétences. Cette tendance peut également s’expliquer par la difficulté d’adopter de nouvelles compétences techniques et numériques. Par conséquent, les travailleurs âgés ont un accès limité à la formation [2]. En outre, certaines personnes âgées ont des difficultés à s’adapter au changement et ont du mal à se défaire de leurs anciennes habitudes et de leurs idéaux, généralement jugés dépassés.

L’un des problèmes les plus importants est la discrimination fondée sur l’âge ou âgisme. Elle consiste à évaluer un employé ou un candidat potentiel de manière moins favorable en raison de son âge. Même si la loi sur la discrimination fondée sur l’âge dans l’emploi (Age Discrimination in Employment Act, ADEA) interdit l’âgisme à l’égard des personnes de 40 ans et plus, des cas de discrimination se produisent encore sur le lieu de travail. Selon des recherches menées par l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS), l’âgisme peut conduire à des performances plus faibles dans les activités cognitives et physiques des personnes âgées exposées à des stéréotypes négatifs liés à l’âge.

L’âgisme a pris un nouveau sens pendant la pandémie de COVID-19. Les travailleurs de tous âges ont été contraints de s’adapter aux nouvelles technologies afin d’entrer en contact avec leurs collègues en raison du travail à distance et virtuel, et les employés plus jeunes sont généralement perçus comme plus férus de technologie. Il y avait un risque possible que les employeurs fassent preuve de discrimination envers les employés plus âgés qui, selon eux, manquaient de connaissances techniques. Il y avait donc des difficultés d’adaptation à un nouveau type de travail. Toutefois, certaines études ont montré que les travailleurs âgés s’adaptaient mieux au travail à distance que les jeunes travailleurs.

Néanmoins, il est indispensable de créer un lieu de travail adapté aux personnes âgées. En offrant une formation continue, en améliorant les conditions de travail et en proposant un environnement de travail flexible, notamment en favorisant le télétravail, on pourrait encourager les travailleurs âgés à rester dans la population active.


[1] Nagarajan, N. R., Wada, M., Fang, M. L., Sixsmith, A. (2019). Defining organizational contributions to sustaining an ageing workforce: a bibliometric review. European Journal of Ageing.

[2] Ravichandran, S., Cichy, K. E., Powers, M., & Kirby, K. (2015). Exploring the training needs of older workers in the foodservice industry. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 44, 157–164.

Generation labels – do we need them?

Author: Technical University of Kosice | Photo: by Sharon McCutcheon from pexels.com

Millennials, Gen Zs, Baby Boomers…each generation has its name and is supposedly defined by its characteristics based on the year of birth. You may have heard that Baby Boomers are though workaholics with strong working morale and Millennials can do magic with technology but are somewhat lazy. But don´t these labels do more damage than good?

The practice of naming generations goes back to the 19th century. Social scientist Philip Cohen claims there is no empirical evidence for imposing the character traits that are believed to define a specific generation. What´s more, they tend to be rather generational stereotypes than facts.

The main problem is that generation is too wide. You can have two people from the one generation born on two opposite ends of that period and their experiences and therefore characteristics can be different.

Cohen makes a valid point when explaining this example: the tennis champion Williams sisters are a generation apart,[1] Venus, born 1980, is part of “Gen X”; Serena, born 1981, is a “Millennial.” Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Michelle Obama are both in the same generation. The former was born in 1946 while the latter was born in 1964, making them both “baby boomers“[2], even though there is almost 20 years apart them.

But do not make mistakes. Cohen and his fellow scientists are not trying to say that the whole concept of generation is wrong. No, generations are one of many analytical lenses researchers use to understand societal change and differences across groups. While there are limitations to the generational analysis, it can be a useful tool for understanding demographic trends and shifting public attitudes. They are simply proposing that external circumstances, the global situation and historic events are much more likely to influence the typical characteristics of a group of people than the year they were born.

What´s more, we must not forget that the personality of an individual plays a crucial role when it comes to traits and that you can find Boomers that are more technologically fluent than some of the members of Gen Z. That is because every generation is diverse and generalisations shouldn´t be made on just arbitrary lines between birth years and attributes.

So what solution do they propose? There are lots of options to use instead of these generational « labels ». We can simply describe people by the decade they were born, which would narrow the period down and reflect the historic circumstances more accurately. Or we can define cohorts specifically related to a particular issue — such as 2020 school kids. Whatever solution we choose, we should always keep in mind that a person is always an authentic individual, no matter to which age cohort belongs. The opinions of the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Consortium


[1] Pew Research Centre: https://www.pewresearch.org/st_18-02-27_generations_defined/

[2] P.N. Cohen: Opinion: Generation labels mean nothing. It´s time to retire them: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/07/generation-labels-mean-nothing-retire-them/

Two stylish business persons in suits having disagreement, war, conflict, standing near desktop in front of each other, face to face with disrespect expression, partner showing stop sign with hands

Le conflit intergénérationnel sur le lieu de travail : quelle est la pomme de discorde ?

Le lieu de travail d’aujourd’hui se caractérise par la coexistence de différentes générations, des baby-boomers (voire des vétérans) aux Zoomers, qui travaillent côte à côte et sont donc confrontées à des situations conflictuelles potentielles découlant directement de leurs différences générationnelles. Mais quelles sont les sources de ces conflits ?

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mentor words on blue background

Le mentorat, une sagesse déguisée

Dans l’Odyssée, Mentor était le fils d’Alcimus, l’ami et le compagnon de confiance d’Ulysse. C’est lui qui a pris sous sa
responsabilité et sous sa direction Télémaque, le fils d’Ulysse, lorsque celui-ci a dû partir pour Troie. Mentor était également responsable du palais d’Ulysse, et c’est sous son déguisement qu’Athéna, déesse de la sagesse, est apparue à Télémaque pour lui conseiller de tenir tête aux prétendants de sa mère. En raison de la relation entre Mentor et Télémaque, et des encouragements et des plans pratiques d’Athéna déguisée pour faire face aux luttes et aux dilemmes personnels, le nom personnel Mentor a été adopté en latin et dans d’autres langues, comme un terme désignant quelqu’un qui transmet sa sagesse et partage ses connaissances avec un collègue moins expérimenté.

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Attitudes des différentes générations sur le lieu de travail

À l’heure actuelle, cinq générations différentes travaillent en même temps sur le marché du travail, côte à côte. De nos jours, les plus influentes sont les générations X, Y et Z. Comme chacune de ces générations se prépare à jouer un rôle dominant dans l’économie mondiale, de nombreuses études et recherches ont été rédigées par des universitaires, des hommes d’affaires et des décideurs politiques sur ce qui motive et démotive ces générations au travail, sur les styles de travail qui les caractérisent et sur les modèles de leadership que l’on peut attendre de leurs membres.

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L’engagement dans une équipe de 5 générations… En avons-nous besoin ? Est-il possible ?

L’engagement des employés est le moteur le plus puissant pour une grande performance. Des employés engagés sont le principal atout de l’entreprise et la base pour être compétitif et réussir sur n’importe quel marché. Il incombe aux dirigeants de créer une bonne atmosphère de travail, d’inclure et de responsabiliser leurs équipes, d’offrir de la reconnaissance, de créer une culture du feedback et de donner un but et un sentiment d’appartenance aux employés. C’est certainement un défi…. Et n’oublions pas qu’aujourd’hui, nous travaillons avec des équipes multigénérationnelles où il y a 5 générations sur le lieu de travail.

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