• Multi-Generational Workforce Impacts Workplace Safety
  • December 1, 2017
  • Today’s workforce is made up of multiple generations, including baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials. More people are working well into their 60s and 70s after the economic downturn of 2008 either cost them their job, or affected their retirement plans. With the multi-generational workforce comes unique challenges, particularly maintaining a safe work environment in industries like manufacturing, where the median employee age is reaching the mid to late 50s. Researchers have found that each generation has their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to understanding and carrying out workplace safety protocols.

    According to a Manager at Accenture Asset and Operations Services at Accenture Consulting, the older generation of workers bring years of experience and knowledge to the workplace. They tend to be extremely loyal to the company and have a vast understanding of what it takes to maintain a safe work environment. As the younger generations slowly take over, there is a concern that motivation to enforce workplace safety may not work with the upcoming generations.

    Generation Classification
    While full classes on safety may have been an effective way for older generations to learn about safety regulations, younger generations tend to absorb information better through things like e-learning and micro-learning techniques. Millennials are known to be highly intuitive, so quick and decisive methods to address safety concerns are most effective. Baby boomers require more comprehensive information and time to allow for questions. Generation X are skilled at project management and prefer to work alone, while millennials have strong intuitive problem-solving skills.

    Considering the unique strengths that each generation brings to the table, pairing two generations can be effective when they have complementary skills. For example, when millennials use their problem-solving skills with baby boomers who have extensive social and institutional knowledge, together they can create effective approaches.

    Future of the Workforce
    Researchers project that by 2025, approximately 75 percent of the global workforce will be made up of millennials. This also means that a large percentage of baby boomers will be leaving the workforce and retiring. When addressing safety issues in the workplace, employers will need to look beyond stereotypes and consider what will work best for employees, regardless of age. John Dony, Director of the Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council, stated that employees are more likely to become motivated about workplace safety if they feel valued and that their employer is taking the necessary steps to keep them safe at work.

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