Hybrid work: How to engage a multi-generational workforce

Leaders at Dell Technologies discuss how to successfully implement hybrid working

Hybrid work: How to engage a multi-generational workforce

Regardless of an employee’s background, money is still king if you’re based in Singapore. Plenty of studies have shown that the top engagement factors for employees include competitive compensation and work-life balance – the latter increasingly popping up on lists since remote working became the norm. As employers embrace hybrid working in the post-pandemic world, it’s best for HR leaders to acknowledge and manage the nuances in each age group’s demands and desires.

However, studies have also proven that multi-gen workforces have more in common than you think. The main differences usually have more to do with the varied professional and personal needs at an employee’s career milestone or life stage than mere age. HRD explores how HR can engage their multi-gen teams in a virtual world of work.

Read more: How to engage remote employees

Do multi-gen workers have wildly different needs?

A 2020 study by JobStreet found that a fair pay packet remains crucial to engage employees from all walks of life. Findings showed that Gen X employees were more motivated by compensation (83%) and a bonus package (41%) than other groups. Despite this, 77% of Baby Boomers, 78% of Gen X or millennials, and 73% of Gen Z workers cited salary as a key source of motivation at work.

Other top drivers of engagement were work-life balance and learning and development opportunities. While flexibility may be highly desired at work, the study found that adequate annual leave was the most coveted benefit across all age groups. The study found that every generation craved some form of training and development to stay engaged in their roles, though the end goal differed for some groups. Younger workers, like Gen Z (50%) and millennials (53%), were especially ambitious and focused on career development.

Gen X (54%) and Boomers (43%), on the other hand, were more concerned about job security. This doesn’t mean that they’d be okay to remain stagnant in their roles. It simply suggested that being at a more mature stage in their careers, they’re keener on stability and financial security.

Read more: Concerns of a multi-generational workforce revealed

Crucial factors to engage hybrid employees

Beyond those needs, leaders should also consider the ‘softer’, and thus trickier, aspects to engage staff at work – especially in this era of hybrid working. This refers to leadership and cultural factors. A recent research paper by Dell Technologies shared actionable insights and recommendations from four experts on ways to implement a successful hybrid work environment. The experts included academics like Australian RMIT lecturer Dr. Julian Waters-Lynch and NUS lecturer Dr. Rashimah Rajah from Singapore, as well as industry insiders Japan-based management consultant Rochelle Kopp, and Mallory Loone, co-founder of learning and engagement firm Work Inspires in Malaysia.

From their deep dive, the experts found three key ingredients to engage hybrid employees:

  1. Leading with empathy and intent
  2. Creating a thoughtful work structure
  3. Making culture-building deliberate

“Culture-building and learning has to be a deliberate effort to spark creativity, innovation and collaboration whilst remote working,” said Dr. Rashimah Rajah, lecturer at the National University of Singapore (NUS) business school, department of management & organisation. “To prevent the risk of split cultures between home-based employees and those in the office, organisations must also create opportunities to encourage an organic exchange of ideas and foster trust between team members through dedicated and regular activities for social engagement.”

Read more: Can you replicate ‘water cooler chats’ remotely?

How can HR engage a multi-gen hybrid workforce?

The three recommendations apply to organisations as a whole, but how can HR ensure that their engagement strategy remained relevant in multi-generational teams? Would it look that much different when managing culture for a Gen Z versus a Gen X employee? In a recent webinar attended by HRD, Dr. Julian Waters-Lynch, lecturer, entrepreneurship, innovation and organisational design, school of management at RMIT University shared his insights on the topic.

  • Plan for 'unstructured' team bonding sessions

“It’s not an easy question to answer,” said Dr. Waters-Lynch. “Even organisations that have fully remote workforces, so they don’t have any expectation that their employees routinely come into an office, periodically organise time where all workers come together physically and spend time with each other. They do a bit of work – strategies, some of that complex creative and collaborative work – but they also spend unstructured social time getting to know each other and they see that as fundamentally important. This is interesting because these guys are very good at structuring work in asynchronous ways and working across time zones.

“I think a lot of [developing] esprit de corps comes from spending some time together, developing that familiarity and that sense of shared purpose. But the way that you do that in a hybrid or even remote setting won’t necessarily be about being together five days a week. It might be coming together less frequently for more intense and different kinds of activities, including designing for unstructured time. The thing that often becomes most neglected in a digital environment are those unplanned serendipitous encounters that make well-designed offices great.”

  • Encourage staff to engage in common causes through ERGs

Jean-Guillaume Pons, SVP and general manager, client solutions group, Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China at Dell Technologies jumped in and suggested tapping on employee resource groups (ERG). These can cover a wide range of causes and passions, which will likely attract and engage individuals from varied backgrounds. Pons, for instance, has always had a passion for diversity and inclusion and is part of Dell’s ‘Women in Action’ ERG – gender diversity being an especially critical issue in the tech industry.

From his experience as a leader, banking on shared goals or purpose is one effective way of engaging staff from all backgrounds. “When you take it from that angle, you can rally a lot of people, whichever generation they’re coming from or whatever their background, and then you can accelerate social interaction,” he said. “The way we do it at Dell for the ERGs is also about having a common goal that’s not only a business goal, but also a way you can keep an esprit de corps and the culture you’re trying to drive.”

Read more: Going hybrid? Here's what to factor in your HR policy

Implementing hybrid work is an ‘ongoing journey’

Above all, David Karpelowitz, VP, HR, Asia Pacific and Japan at Dell Technologies reminded leaders that whatever the strategy may be, they should be ready to flex and fit employees’ changing needs – regardless of their background. “The way we work and live has definitely changed and it will continue to evolve,” Karpelowitz told HRD. “Hybrid work is here to stay. We must reimagine work not as location or time, but as outcomes. It’s important for organisations to not only establish a robust hybrid work strategy, but also to do their utmost to help their employees realize their professional and personal goals, regardless of where they work.

“The experts we spoke with for the insight paper agreed that there’s no one-size-fits-all in designing a hybrid work future. We fully agree with them. Hybrid work is an ongoing journey and we continue to adapt. What will never change is our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of our team members.”

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