Younger employees report lower productivity when working with older managers due to a lack of collaboration between employees of different generations, according to new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in partnership with global consulting firm Protiviti.
The aging global population means there is less “younger talent” in the pipeline in addition to increased generational diversity, with large firms regularly having five generations working together.
Friction between different generations drives down productivity and firms need to develop intergenerationally inclusive workplace practices, the external survey of 1,450 employees in the finance, technology and professional services industries in the UK and U.S. found.
Inclusive workplace practices include making it easier for each generation to “fit in,” developing and advancing people based on merit rather than age, and committing to a generationally diverse workforce.
Of the employees surveyed, 25 percent self-reported low productivity.
Low levels of productivity were reported by 37 percent of Gen Z, 30 percent of millennials, 22 percent of Gen X, and 14 percent of baby boomers.
Employees with managers more than 12 years their senior are nearly 1.5 times as likely to report low productivity, the survey found.
Despite these differences, the survey found that generations agree on the skills that are most important to productivity and career advancement.
The top three skills reported were active listening, time-management, and judgement and decision-making.
In firms that use intergenerationally inclusive work practices, productivity was higher in younger generations, researchers found. These practices include ensuring all employees have similar levels of voice when collaborating and advancing employees based on merit regardless of their age.
A majority of employees, (87 percent) reported high productivity levels in firms with intergenerationally inclusive work practices, compared to just 58 percent of employees from firms without these practices.
The proportion of Gen Z employees reporting low productivity drops from 37 percent to 18 percent, and from 30 percent to 13 percent for millennials, according to the survey.
In addition, employees working at intergenerationally inclusive workplaces are twice as likely to be satisfied with their jobs and are less likely to look for a new role, the report found.
“I am not surprised that we discovered a ‘productivity manager age gap.’ There is good evidence that across generations, individuals have different tastes and preferences. So, why do we expect them to work easily together? We now have five generations working together in the workplace, and the skills that are required to manage these dynamics are not usually being taught by firms,” said Dr. Grace Lordan, founder and director of The Inclusion Initiative at LSE. “Our research shows that if we invest in giving these skills to managers, and creating an intergenerationally inclusive workplaces there are significant productivity gains to be had.”
The report, “GENERATIONS, Unlocking the Productivity Potential of a Multigenerational Workforce,” marks the first of a multi-year research collaboration between The Inclusion Initiative at the LSE and Protiviti to explore how firms can capture the productivity potential that is available from getting colleagues of different generations working better together.