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5 generations at work: generational issues in business service centres

Age diversity (also) adds to organisational culture and business success. It also requires open-minded leaders and colleagues willing to learn from each other. You cannot sit on your laurels after selection, because respect from the younger generation does not come automatically, but needs to be led by example, career progression, retention, engagement and motivation tailored to individual needs. How does this work in practice on a day-to-day basis? This was the topic of discussion at the ABSL Business Breakfast Roundtable.

ABSL, generációk, szolgáltató központ-

The panel discussion was attended by Tamás Jakus, Head of HR at Thermo Fisher Scientific, Alex Laffan, European Director of Tesco Business Services, Anita Zvezdovics, Chief Fizz Officer at BrandFizz and Judit Forgács, ABSL Board Member.

The leaders all emphasised that diversity is about much more than age, but that intergenerational collaboration is a really exciting topic at the moment, as extremely rapid technological change has led to significant changes in the social norms around us, which also has an impact on the workplace. It has been reported that when it comes to recruitment in business service centres, it is often not age that is more of a challenge, but a lack of language skills and the necessary skills.


How to find motivational factors that appeal to different generations in a relevant way is a serious issue once the selection process is over. Tamás Jakus stressed that leaders have an important role to play in creating an environment that motivates. From there, it is up to the individual to seize these opportunities. However, in parallel to creating opportunities, the HR manager also mentioned the performance expectations that the company has. As external norms change rapidly, organisational norms and culture need to be built to create the right framework. And to do this, clearly communicate what behaviour is acceptable and what is not. This does not mean that you cannot be unique or different, following individual paths, but you must conform to the company norms that the employee has accepted by joining the company.

Young people are often more impatient, but this is also because everything in their lives is "immediate", so they are less taught to wait. And the older generations often expect respect on the grounds of age and experience, which does not necessarily come on that basis, but on the basis of having to prove themselves, showing experience, expertise, setting an example, which is how respect is earned. Empathy should also come from older generations who have more experience of practising it and are used to the presence of other generations," adds Alex Laffan. It is important that colleagues are open to learning from each other.

Citing research, Anita Zvezdovics said that for all generations, one of the most important values in the workplace is resilience, but this means different things to different generations. While Z needs flexibility for work-life balance, Y needs it for self-fulfilment, X needs it to adapt to family life, perhaps because of a second job.

Another interesting perceptual difference was also highlighted by the employer branding strategist: how one generation sees itself and how another sees it. X generally sees X as trustworthy, committed, deserving of a leadership position because they have the experience and up-to-date digital skills. Whereas Z sees X as a workaholic who is "stuck" in a job, expects respect, lacks knowledge where appropriate, charges a lot of money and is digitally illiterate. Bridging these generational-perception gaps is therefore no easy task.

Alex Laffan said that Tesco also saw an opportunity in benefits to open up to young people. Whereas in the past it was mainly family workers who got the extra benefits, the 25 days' holiday (which young people usually don't have as career starters), the performance bonus for the youngest employees and the private healthcare service can be an incentive for young colleagues.


Attitudes, skills and learning abilities depend on the individual, not the generation.

Training, learning

During the discussion, the experts also touched on learning differences. Again, one of the keys is flexibility, as there needs to be freedom to choose when, where and how a colleague wants to learn the training material. This should be based on the needs of those whom the employer is targeting with the training. It was mentioned that account should be taken of the significantly reduced focus time, people with different learning difficulties, people with neurodiversity, who may need a completely different approach and learning methods. Here too, it is essential to create an appropriate environment where they feel safe and secure.

The experts also noted that there is no fundamental generational difference in terms of the number and personality of people who embark on a career path with serious potential. Indeed, what is common in these people is that they have a strong intrinsic motivation to develop and learn. And attitudes, skills and learning abilities depend on the individual, not the generation.

Photo (b to j).

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