Harnessing the Potential of Today’s Multi Generational Workforce in Singapore - SIM Today Manager Issue 2 2013
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Today’s Multi-Generational Workforce Can They Work Together?
The Owen Perspective View from the Top
Fast Expanding Markets Looking at Global Markets
Harnessing the Potential
of Today’s Multi-
Year of the Global
Small- and Medium-
Markets: A New Way
to Look at the Global
From the Editors’ iii
Customer Service 4
Has Singapore’s 2013 8
Budget Addressed Rising
Costs and Manpower
How Middle Managers 12
Can Become Leaders
of the Future
Farming in Singapore: 22
A Diamond in the Rough
Making Sense of the 26
New MAS Car Loan
Unethical Cost Saving 28
Measures in the F&B
Innovative Fan 30
Ingredients That 37
Make a Good Leader
The Owen Perspective
View From the Top 41
Viewpoints of a 44
Leader: Mr Daniel Tan
Woman Leader 48
in a Man’s Industry
Blurring the 53
Offline and Online for
Clearly Across Cultures
What is Business 63
Treatments for Big 68
Data in Healthcare
Future of Human– 70
Good Reads 74
How Leaders Can
Scan to Visit
Our New Portal!
iISSUE 2 2013
by Professor Sattar Bawany
16 ISSUE 2 2013
In today’s struggling global economy, it is im-
portant for organisations to leverage the know-
ledge, skills, and abilities of all workers, from all
generations. By capitalising on the strengths and
values of different generations, business leaders
can create a sustainable competitive advantage
for their organisations.
hanges in the demographic characteristics of
Singapore’s workforce deserve more attention
from academics, employers, employees, and
policy-makers. Today, many organisations have four
generations working side-by-side in the workplace.
According to Kupperschmidt3
, a generation of employ-
ees consists of individuals born approximately within
the same time span of two decades each. He explains
that a generation is an: “…identifiable group that shares
birth, years, age, location, and significant life events at
17ISSUE 2 2013
Table 1: The multi-generational workforce
Generation Years Born Work
Believe in working
for the same
Baby Boomers 1946–1964
Live to work:
Believe in putting
in face time
at the office.
Women enter the
workforce in large
Work to live:
Believe that work
should not define
their lives. Dual-
become the norm.
Work my way:
Devoted to their
own careers, not
to their companies.
Living and working
their way: Their
struggles in the
are tied to
their youth and
Desire for change,
agers is: “Do we want our legacy to be of mentoring
and empowering the next generations, or of fighting
them tooth and nail?” Organisations that embrace gene-
rational differences in values, ways of getting things
done, and ways of communicating will thrive.
Demographic and social trends will have a significant
impact on the workforce in the coming years. In today’s
struggling global economy, it is important for organisa-
critical developmental stages”. Others believe that when
individuals from the same generation share similar his-
torical, economic, and social experiences, they will also
have similar work values, attitudes, and behaviours4
The business world is progressively becoming more
global. Services and products offered by businesses are
also becoming more focused and targeted at specific
demographic segments. Many organisations today have
worldwide customers who demand excellent services
and products that meet up their diverse needs, expecta-
tions, and priorities. Simultaneously, the composition
of the global workforce is also changing significantly.
After World War II, the Traditionalist generation, born
1922 to 1945, tended to work at the same employer for
an entire career. Beginning with the Baby Boomers,
born 1946 to 1964, women and ethnic groups began
entering the workforce in increasing numbers. They
brought different needs and perspectives to the work-
place. As the Generation Xers entered the workforce,
they increased job hopping in an effort to increase their
income and balance their lifestyle. Although some
employers made accommodations in response to the
demographic shifts, the basic work model—top down,
command and control, one-size-fits-all, eight to five
workdays—did not radically change.
Now, the emergence of the digital-savvy Generation
Yers has the potential to change the face of work to be
more collaborative, to use virtual teams, to use social
media, and to offer more flexible work hours2
The Fifth Generation
Employers must be prepared for a new breed of em-
ployee which is poised to enter the workforce. A whole
generation of them, known as Generation Z, are highly
connected individuals who have grown up with high-
speed Internet, smartphones, and online shopping. Born
from the mid-1990s onwards, they will enter the work-
force in the next five years. This is a generation that has
never known a life without superfast communication
and unlimited access to media technologies.
The five generations and their birth years are depicted
in Table 1.
Challenges in Managing a
A major challenge for today’s Traditionalist and Baby
Boomer managers is to figure out how to develop
younger workers into tomorrow’s managers under a
new business environment. A pivotal question for man-
18 ISSUE 2 2013
tions to leverage the knowledge, skills, and abilities of
all workers from all generations. By capitalising on the
strengths and values of different generations, business
leaders can create a sustainable competitive advantage
for their organisations.
Firms struggle with the challenge of effectively mana-
ging a more diverse workforce. These challenges of-
ten relate to variation in perspective, values, and belief
systems as a result of generational and age differences
between managers and employees. The assumption that
people of varying ages will understand each other or
have the same perspective and goals, is untrue. In order
to be successful, managers need to understand and va-
lue diversity that results from generational differences,
varying perspectives, and differing goals.
Each generation brings different experiences, perspec-
tives, expectations, work styles, and strengths to the
workplace. Despite the perceived generation gap from
differing views and potential conflict, organisations
have the opportunity to capitalise on the assets of each
generation to achieve competitive advantage.
Each brings unique assumptions to the job. As a result,
events in the workplace are often interpreted differently
by individuals in different generations. What may seem
like good news to a Baby Boomer might be an unsett-
ling and unwelcome development to a member of Gene-
ration X. Things that members of Generation Y love of-
ten seem unappealing to those in older generations.
Like any other generation, Generation Z brings its
own mindset into the workforce. They are also called
Linksters because no other generation has ever been so
linked to each other and to the world through techno-
logy. Their struggles in the work environment are tied
to their youth and inexperience. They are complete dig-
ital natives and cannot function without communicating
through social media. Their desire for change, stimula-
tion, learning, and promotion often conflicts with tradi-
tional organisational hierarchies.
Leading and Engaging a
When employees join an organisation, they are usually
enthusiastic, committed, and ready to be advocates for
their new employer because they are engaged.
But often, that first year on the job is their best. Re-
search from Gallup Incorporation reveals that the long-
er an employee stays with a company, the less engaged
he or she becomes. This causes businesses to lose out
on profit and sales, and it lowers customer satisfaction.
Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees
cost the American economy up to US$350 billion per
year in lost productivity.
Managers who harness this unprecedented opportunity
for growth, development, and collaboration can build
bridges between generations and will thrive in today’s
turbulent economic landscape.
For managers who have four generations of employees
working on a project, it can seem like each generation
has its own worldviews, priorities, career models, mo-
tives, and values. They need to enhance their under-
standing of generational characteristics and the impact
of their own management practices on each of these
groups. By doing so, they can leverage on the strengths
of each generation. Taking full advantage of the multi-
generational workforce will enable employers to effec-
tively attract and retain employees, build teams, deal
with change, and increase employee engagement.
Impact of Leadership Effectiveness on
Employee Engagement and Organisational Success
Organisations need to deliver service value and build
good customer relationships in order to generate sus-
tainable results through their loyal customers. In Figure
1, we can see that employees at the forefront of the ser-
vice delivery chain hold the key to building this loyal
Employees who are engaged and motivated are instru-
mental in delivering the service experience for clients
which results in customer engagement. The level of
employee engagement depends on the organisational
climate, which refers to how employees feel about work-
ing in the organisation. It is the process of quantifying
the culture of an organisation.
We know that leaders create, transform, and manage or-
ganisational cultures. The leader’s values, beliefs, and
leadership styles will impact the organisation’s climate.
We need “Level 5 Leaders” who demonstrate ontologi-
cal humility and possess emotional mastery. They also
need to possess essential integrity in discharging their
day-to-day role and responsibilities towards engaging
In his book, Good to Great, Mr Jim Collins examines
how a good company becomes an exceptional company.
The book introduces a new term to the leadership lexi-
con—Level 5 leadership. It refers to the highest level in
a hierarchy of executive capabilities. Leaders at the other
19ISSUE 2 2013
Bawany, S (2011). Ways to Achieve Organisational Success: Role of
Leaders in Engaging the Multi-Generational Workforce published by
Singapore Business Review, 1 November 2011.
Bawany, S (2013). Unlocking the Benefits of a Multi-Generational
workforce in Singapore published by Singapore Business Review, 24
Kupperschmidt BR (2000). Multigenerational employees: strategies
for effective management. Health Care Manager. 19 (1): 65-76.
Smola KW, Sutton CD (2002). Generational differences: Revisiting
generational work values for the new millennium. Journal of
Organizational Behaviour. 23 (4): 363-82.
Tay A (2011). Managing generational diversity at the workplace:
expectations and perceptions of different generations of employees.
African Journal of Business Management Vol. 5(2), pp. 249-255, 18
Zemke R, Raines C, Filipczak B (2000). Generations at work:
Managing the clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers and Nexters in your
workplace (2nd Ed). American Management Association, New York, NY.
Professor Sattar Bawany is the chief
executive officer of The Centre for
Executive Education. He is also con-
currently the strategic advisor and
member of International Profess-
ional Managers Association Board
of Trustees and Governing Council
and is the co-chair of the Human
Capital Committee of the American
Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.
Figure 1: Impact of Leadership on Employment and Cust-
four levels may be successful, but are unable to elevate
companies from mediocrity to sustained excellence.
Level 5 leadership challenges the assumption that trans-
forming companies from good to great requires larger-
than-life-leaders. The leaders that came out on top in
Mr Collins’ five-year study were relatively unknown
outside their industries. The findings appear to signal
a shift of emphasis away from the hero to the anti-hero.
According to Mr Collins, humility is a key ingredient
of Level 5 leadership. His simple formula is Humility +
Will = Level 5. He explains: “Level 5 leaders are a study
in duality. They are modest, wilful, shy, and fearless.”
Managers who build bridges between generations and
harness this unprecedented opportunity for growth, de-
velopment, and collaboration will thrive. Although it
may seem like a monumental task for management to
ensure that employees understand and accept the idio-
syncrasies of each multi-generational group, it is not
impossible. Management must be the first to acknow-
ledge and accept the unique characteristics and expecta-
tions of employees from different generational groups.
Management should also ensure that individuals from
different generations perceive each other more posi-
tively to avoid any intergenerational disharmony. The
sooner employees from all the existing generational
groups learn to respect and accept one another the easi-
er it will be for them to welcome Generation Z employ-
ees to the new workforce after the year 20205
20 ISSUE 2 2013
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