The tech sector and the 5G workforce

People are living longer and retiring later. Meanwhile, younger generations are starting their first jobs and looking to join the workforce. For the first time ever, there’s a workforce encompassing five generations of people.

Designing a culture that supports multi-generational workers is pressing. And preparing for the five-generation workforce is particularly thorny when it comes to the tech sector.

So, what are the problems and the potential of the 5G workforce in tech? And how can tech companies excel with a mix of 5G employees?

Who is the 5G workforce?

The 5G workforce has nothing to do with the new 5G network. Rather, it’s the name given to the recent phenomenon for five different generations co-existing in the workplace.

The five generations now working together are:

  1. The silent generation (1928-1945, ages 93-76)
  2. Baby boomers (1946-1964, ages 75-57)
  3. Generation X (1965-1980, ages 56-41)
  4. Millennials (1981-1996, ages 40-25)
  5. Generation Z (1997-2012, ages 24-9)

The result is a wide range of life experiences. 5G offices house varying viewpoints and knowledge. They’re home to people at different stages of life, all merging together in a multigenerational workplace.

The potential of the 5G workforce

With all that variety comes a unique opportunity to unlock valuable insight and camaraderie in your offices.

In the tech sector, this far-reaching input can translate to software that is more accessible, more robust, and more up-to-date. You combine the newest knowledge from the younger generations, with the wisdom and experience of the older generations.

Additionally, you have teams that are representative of nearly all age groups in society. As such, your software and tech products benefit from diverse insight.

The challenges of the 5G workforce

One challenge faced by all managers of a 5G workforce is ensuring that their teams integrate and work together. There is a risk of people forming cliques and disparate groups based on age or viewpoint. In turn, this results in a loss of productivity and insight that could otherwise be unlocked by collaborative work.

There’s also the risk of cultural clashes; communication problems caused by different world views and understandings of how things are and how they should be.

“Boomers and the “silent generation” feel they are being phased out by technology. Millennials feel they drew the short straw with the job market. Gen-Xers feel like the sandwich generation, often forgotten or ignored. Gen-Zers want to change the world but feel stymied by outdated practices.”

Richard Bailey, President of the Americas at HP, Inc.

For example, the silent generation grew up with no technology. Gen Z, however, grew up as ‘digital natives’, and so have a very different take on technology and what it can or should do. This means a different level of tech acceptance in their roles. For instance, younger generations may be more accepting of using automation technology to assist them with their work. 

The ageism in tech issue

The tech sector faces a particularly specific challenge when it comes to the 5G workforce: the ageism rampant in the industry.

Older programmers find themselves considered ‘over the hill’, and face career worries — being a minority in the workforce. This means that your older developers may feel less job security. Or they may face their input being disregarded as ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘out-of-date’.

Meanwhile, younger developers are too often treated as disposable resources to hire. As such, many tend to burn out rapidly.

This generational deficit is seeing companies suffer in terms of both workplace culture and productivity. Most obviously, failing to support each generation of tech workers fairly and consistently creates an unsettled working environment.

Plus, in terms of re

sults, an imbalanced mix of software veterans and inexperienced starters leads to lagging leadership and work quality. An ‘us vs them’ mentality between generations must be avoided.

Supporting the 5G workforce

The goals of supporting the 5G workforce are to promote collaboration, teamwork, and a healthy, integrated culture.

A clear step in the right direction is to encourage cross-generational mentoring. (And to make sure it runs both ways.) Older team members can share knowledge that only comes from experience. Younger team members can share their more recent training and introduce newer ideas.

Along a similar vein, developers of every generation should be encouraged to continue learning — both from each other, and on their own. Everyone being in a learning mindset helps to reinforce the fact that no one knows everything. This, in turn, implicitly encourages teams to listen and respect each other’s ideas.

Pair programming across generations is a great fit for the tech industry. For example, younger developers can bring a fresh set of eyes, and experienced developers can bring tried-and-tested approaches to complex problems.

HR teams must also be trained to tackle (perhaps oblivious) typecasts. Age is not an indicator of skill or remuneration expectations, and you should assume nothing.

The 5G workforce in tech

The bottom line is that a diverse team drives financial performance. The five-generation workforce is a business boon, and designing a culture that works for each generation can only benefit office morale and output.

So, are you ready to support the 5G workforce in your tech offices?

Useful links

Designing for the ageing population

Ageism in tech: the not-so-invisible age limit developers face

A programmer’s work is never done