The modern workforce has a lot of diversity all stemming from factors which are internal, workforce, and workplace related. Diversity that is common in the labour force includes race, sexual orientation, gender, and disability. However, there has been an increasing diversity which is most often overlooked but is critical and is the age/generation diversity. In most developed companies there are at least four clear generations working side by side which are older or mature baby boomers, baby boomers, generation X, and millennia babies (generation Y). Like any other diversity, if it is not effectively managed then the organisation has no future.
The management functions that can be identified in dealing with this diversity is planning and organizing. In planning the manager first identifies the vision, objective, and goal of the company from which he will base his strategic planning. A SWOT analysis will be developed and from there strategies developed. The strategies are then implemented through formation of budgets, rules, policies, and programs. A follow up on the implementation is done so that changes can be done. The organizing function can be implemented where an organization chart is created by the manager. From the chart a relationship between the different generations can be drawn at the same time reviewing the plans from the planning phase. The manager will then make decisions on coordinating, span of control, delegation of authority, division of labour, and departmentation. The recommendations in dealing with this diversity can broadly be categorised into creating awareness of peaceful coexistence amongst the generations, proper management of the generations, and development of positive and effective communication strategies.
In the modern workplace environment there has been an increasing trend of employees in an organisation being different from one another resulting to an aspect called “workforce diversity.” The term “workforce diversity” refers to the way people in a workplace environment are similar or different from one another (Thomas, 2010). Factors that result in diversity are broadly categorised into three groups: which are internal factors that include age, gender, sexual orientation, mental ability; workforce factors which include physical appearance, work history, income, communication style, family, and education background; and workplace factors that include location, levels of job, and type of work. Having a diverse workforce has its merits when managed properly (Golnaz & Hoa, 2002).
However, diversity if managed properly has numerous merits that include: improved decision making, better team work performance, advanced consumer services, improved communication skills, and presence of a creativity and innovation (Golnaz & Hoa, 2002). This is the reason managers in US companies spend millions of dollars in diversity training as they believe this is the way forward in better usage of talent and increasing creativity in organisation. Effective managers in organisations having a diverse workforce are conversant with the need to implement certain management functions to come up with an effective diverse workforce.
This paper discusses how age/generation differences in the workforce can be effectively managed by managers through consideration of two management functions which are planning and organizing. In large organisations more so companies in developing economies there is a tendency of finding the workforce having four generations. Generation in this context are a group of people who were born within certain eras and so they share certain beliefs, experiences and values. These differences amongst the generation can ultimately result in conflicts and unproductively in the workplace. Age/generation diversity is a problem in US and the developed world as a whole where thirty five years ago the oldest workers and women joined the labour force which ultimately resulted in revolution of economies. However, currently there has been a flip side of the change where currently in the workforce there are now four generations that are: matures baby boomers who were born between 1946 and 1964, baby boomers born between 1964 and 1980, Generation X born between 1981 and 1991, and the latest entrant who are generation Y (millennia babies) born after 1991 (Nyce, 2007).
The four generations in the workforce create diversity that if not managed properly results in dissatisfied employees and conflicts. The two management functions of the available four that will be used in combating age diversity are planning and organisation. The report will highlight the theories that are associated with the two functions and their concepts that managers can use in managing the diverse workforce. A conclusion will then be made of how managers can best manage age diversity in the workforce with recommendation of what actions the manager in an organisation like that can implement.
Discussion and Analysis
In lame man’s terms it refers to thinking before taking any action which correlates to what an organisation does presently that will influence the future. In management, Daft & Lane, 2010, defines the term as the mental tendency to act in an orderly way, to think before acting and to act in accordance to the present facts. Of the four major management functions it is the fundamental one where all the other functions are based upon. The function is important in all levels of management although its characteristics are different in the levels.
The concepts that are of essence in any organisation during planning include a vision, mission, objective, and goals (Daft & Lane, 2010). A vision is a vague course and motivational direction that the entire organisation takes that is considered to be emotionally formulated. A mission is the reason why the organisation stands and it reflects the culture and value of the top management. The mission is refined through objectives that would address key issues that affect the internal environment of a company. Objectives in this case are expected unlimited in time, tough, general, and easily followed. Goals are the final concepts that are considered during planning which are specific statements that would further define the objectives of the organisation. The actual steps that are involved in planning are categorised into six groups which are (Daft & Lane, 2010): formulation of objectives; coming up with planning hypothesis; choosing an alternative course of action; establishing secondary plans; securing cooperation; and following up on plans.
A specific type of planning that can also been used by organisation in combating workforce diversity is strategic planning. The outcomes of this type of planning are called strategies and they define the type of diversity in workforce, the criteria for addressing the diversity, and the fundamental actions that the company will follow when combating the diversity (Brownell, 2003). The strategies entrust large amounts of the company’s assets to the proposed actions that will promote positive workforce diversity. Implementing the strategic plan involves: carrying out an internal and external environmental analysis; re-evaluating the mission, objectives, and vision of the organisation; and determining the SWOT analysis (Brownell, 2003).
The first step is in planning forecasting through coming up with objectives. The objectives of addressing diversity in the workforce are the nucleus of the planning processes hence the reason why they should be stated clearly, precisely, and in an explicit language (Brownell, 2003). If otherwise, then actions that would be undertaken would be ineffective. As much as possible, the objectives in dealing with organisational issues should be stated in quantitative terms like encouraging a certain number of older productive workers to delay retirement or attracting a certain number of young workers in the company. The objectives should also be realistic, attainable, suitable, and effective by all organisational members.
Planning assumptions (premises) are also a must and they are the basis of planning. The assumptions are important in the sense that it determines where the organisation will deviate from planned actions and what would be the reasons for the deviation (Thomas, 2010). This step is crucial in the sense that it takes into consideration that in operation hurdles are a must and therefore the need to avoid them. The assumptions that are taken may be internal or external where the former include labour relations management and organisation’s philosophy while the latter includes aspects such as social, economic, and political changes (Thomas, 2010). Therefore it can be clearly stipulated that internal premises can be controlled while external cannot.
The next planning phase after establishing premises and objectives is in choosing alternative actions. The alternative actions chosen are to be assessed through evaluating their merits and demerits in light of the company’s organisation resources. The best alternative is chosen by the planners. Moreover, there is also formulation of derivative plans which are sub-plans that will help in achieving the main plan of addressing the issue of a diverse workforce. The sub-plans flow from the main plans and they can include policies, budgets, schedules, programs, and even procedures. For instance in the management of generation diversity in the workforce, the sub-plans can be workforce interaction programs, and even conflict management rules.
After the plans have been determined then it is advisable that all the employees and managers that would be involved in implementing the plan be brought aboard so as to promote cooperation. The reason for having the confidence of the implementation team is to motivate them to implement the plans, obtain other valuable information and improvement on the current plans, and to create an interest amongst employees in executing the plans (Thomas, 2010). After choosing the plans, then the last part is to put it in action and appraise its effectiveness. Following up on plans is done through getting information from departments and persons involved in implementing the process. This would enable the plan to be modified and hypothesises corrected. This step results in transformation of ideal plans into realistic plans which would be progressive to a company.
It is the second step in management that follows planning and entails the harmonization and blending of all physical, human, and financial resources of a company. The function is important in that it helps in achieving results that were stipulated during the planning function of management. Daft & Lane, 2010, defines organizing function as the recognition and categorization of required activities that are necessary in attaining certain objectives through assignment of each divisions to a certain manager with authority who will coordinate the function. In organizing, managers have to create structures, establish relationships, and allocate resources so that activities are completed.
During organisation, managers also review plans that would address the issue facing the company listing all tasks that are to be performed by different stakeholders. The listed tasks are assorted into jobs that can be done by certain individuals. Departments in the company are also fashioned to deal with the current issue with authority by the manager delegated to ensure that tasks assigned to groups and individuals is completed.
Managers in organisations implement organizing function through coming up with an organisation structure. In coming up with an organisation structure and delegating authority, the managers decisions should always reflect the vision, mission, and objectives that were formulated in the planning phase. Managers during this function decide on:
I. Labour Division
It is captured in a pictorial representation and showing all functions that the workforce are doing in the company. The representation is in the form of a chart that shows the relationships between the tasks and the authority to do the task. The chart can show eight relationships that are: labour specialization, relative authority, decision responsibility, official communication avenues, management levels, control span, centres of coordination, and departmentation (Daft & Lane, 2003). The representations in chart form have some limitations which include: implications of absence of formality; inconsistence with reality; implication that pyramidal formations are the only way to organise; and they fail to address the prospective influence and clout of workforce positions in comparison with line positions (Thomas, 2010).
II. Authority Delegation
Authority in this context means legitimate powers and in organisations, the manager has the ability to influence others and to distribute authority. By delegating, the manager is freed from the prison of urgency and therefore can invest the free time in high priority matters. However, the paradox here is that delegation does not free the manager from responsibility for their actions and decisions of his colleagues. The key principles in delegating include: exception principle where someone must be in charge; parity principle that says authority of delegation must equal the responsibility; and the unity principle where no employee in an organisation has to report to more than one supervisor (Thomas, 2010). Other factors and concepts that guide delegation include: span of control which is the number of people that the manager controls; scalar chain of command that is the official distribution of the company’s authority in a hierarchical manner; decentralization where decisions are to be felt up to the lowest levels in the organisation; and line and staff authority (Thomas, 2010).
It is the combination of jobs in an organisation under the authority of a single supervisor in accordance to some logical reason so that one can easily plan, manage, and direct (Daft & Lane, 2010). The number of departments in any company will depend on the complexity and size of the company.
This is a hard task that entails harmonizing the activities of various personnel to be in sync with the visions, missions, and objectives of the company (Thomas, 2010). Coordination is done at all levels of management hence making it an integral part in management of any issue in an organisation.
V. Span of Control
It is the number of employees that a supervisor can have in any given instance. Depending on factors such as geographical location, workers capability, and work similarity, the span of control of different organisations vary (Thomas, 2010). They vary so that the maximum production can be achieved by employees through positive interaction with their supervisor.
Responding to generation/age differences requires the same skill in dealing with other normal diversities. The skills called for in this scenario are awareness, communication, and ability to manage conflicts effectively (Brownell, 2003). In our case management can be effectively done through applying the concepts and theories of planning and organizing that were discussed in the previous section. In planning managers should have a vision, objective, and goal of making sure that all employees of different generations work together peacefully and in a productive manner. Managers should first receive and store information of the ages of all the employees in the company. This will ensure that employees are grouped in accordance to the generation they are in hence their needs can be tended to.
The manager can them make strategic decisions based on how to harmonise and blend the various generations in the workforce. This is through allocating the right amount of resources that would go into policies, programs, and rules of how the groups would work together in the company. Strategies are brought about through carrying out a SWOT analysis after which they can be implemented. Implementation of strategies that would promote positive generation diversity in the workforce is through developing policies, budgets and programs that aim for the goal and motivating the staff. Following up on the agreed strategies should also be done so that changes can be made where results are not good.
In using organizing function to address generation diversity, the manager has to create an organization structure that will establish the relationship between the different generations. Plans that were formulated prior will be reviewed and then from there the manager will make decisions on issues such as departmentation, coordination, span of control, and delegation of authority to make sure that the process of achieving a positive environment in a generation diverse workforce is attained.
In light of the modern workforce in developed economies having workforces that have varied generations, the recommendations that can be implemented include:
Making sure that rules and programs are formulated that would compel the workforce to interact more such as periodic company retreats, or parties which are a must attend to everyone.
Making sure that the company invests in regular seminars that would educate the workforce to understand each other and how to resolve conflicts arising from the diversity.
Creating policies that would enable productive matures and boomers to delay retirement and at the same time attract motivated, energetic, and skilled youth in the organisation who would work together symbiotically. Mature generation in the organisation would act as mentors to the coming younger generations.
Development of effective communication strategies such as suggestion boxes, daily troubleshooting meetings that are the foundation of conflict resolution. These strategies also enable individuals to converse around sensitively charged topics.
Introduction of a department that deals with negative workforce diversity which would enable the generation issue to be addressed comprehensively and effectively.
Brownell, Judi (2003). Developing Receiver-Centered Communication in Diverse Organizations. Listening Professional, 2(1), 5-25
Daft, R. L., & Lane, P. (2010). Management. Ohio: Cengage Learning. Pp. 5-27
Golnaz Sadri, & Hoa Tran. (2002). managing your diverse workforce through improved communication. The Journal of Management Development, 21(3/4), 227-237. Retrieved April 28, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 239571411).
Thomas, R. (2010). World-class Diversity Management: a strategic approach. California: Berrett-Koehler publishers. Pp. 125-130
Nyce, S. A. (2007). The Aging Workforce: Is Demography Destiny?. Generations, 31(1), 9-15. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.