01 Oct 2015
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An Opening your mind to the Xtra10 event

Companies need to think about the ageing workforce and intergenerational working

Today, on Older People’s Day, I attended the ‘Opening your mind to the Xtra10 event’, a workshop hosted by The Age of No Retirement. Designed and co-hosted with Barclays the aim of the workshop was to explore with other companies what a multigenerational strategy actually means in practice and what work needs to be done in this space.

During the workshop we explored in small teams how, in a growing and ageing population where in many cases individuals may be planning to work an ‘extra 10 years’, we could devise a more inclusive approach to engaging our workforce and developing products and services for our customer bases both now and for the future.

We heard a fascinating talk from Barclays’ Steven Roberts, Managing Director of Strategic Transformation, who shared the new innovation and thinking emerging from their multigenerational strategy. Within Barclays Steven led and pioneered a group of experienced, older employees to investigate far reaching issues within the company and develop innovative solutions such as their most well-known internal initiative called Barclays Digital Eagles which has now become a consumer service.

The ageing workforce – overlook at your peril

The topic of the ageing workforce has sometimes been overlooked – alongside the forgotten Sandwich pressured Gen Xs plodding away – with much of the focus being on the maligned Gen Ys and their importance as tech savy consumers and potential as future leaders with many companies looking at how to engage and motivate as well as retain this new talent.

Research by Business In The Community found that of the 3.3 million economically inactive people aged 50-64, approximately 1 million people have been made ‘involuntarily workless’ – pushed out of their previous job as a result of shocks such as a combination of redundancy, ill health or early retirement. The research found that helping older people back into the labour market could lead to a potential £88 billion boost to the UK’s GDP.

At Sodexo we will in the coming year also be focusing on the engagement of our over 50s employees and those preparing for retirement.

As figures in the ‘Later Life in the United Kingdom’ research (April 2015) by Age UK show there has been a trend of people leaving the workforce later. For men, the average age increased to 65. For women, it increased to 62. We realise, like other companies such as Barclays co-hosting the event today, that with an ageing population as an employer its key for us to prepare and understand the needs of our employees and our customers.

Our approach to intergenerational working

In my previous blog post I spoke about why Generations was an important area to focus on for us and other companies.

Our Generations work so far has centred on overall employee engagement, engagement of 20-30s that have lower engagement scores and fostering intergenerational understanding in teams.

To tell you a little bit about our approach. As I explained at a recent Sodexo Generations client event in Dublin our approach was based around our key objectives:

Sodexo generations objectives

We had particular focus on employee engagement and fostering intergenerational working within Sodexo because of the make-up of our organisation and the way we deliver services.

The majority of our workforce, over 30,000 are in customer facing roles serving and in some cases interacting with our customers and clients customers. We believe that by ensuring our employees are engaged and understanding of each other’s values and behaviours which may be affected by your generation or any of our other diversity and inclusion areas such as sexual orientation or ethnicity then we will create happier teams which obviously mean better service for our customers.

To help introduce our employees and managers to the subject and help develop that intergenerational understanding we had an unusual and novel approach.

We created a fun interactive board game that featured cards with typical generational characteristics found in external research and four generations placeholder boards for teams to rightly or wrongly associate the cards with.

The Gen Match Game

The game stimulated great discussions in teams and employees have said that it helped them to have a different and better understanding in their personal lives and at work of their colleagues and customers. The game also helped to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions of the different generations.

The game was also supported by a webinar series on topics that members of our generations network had told us they were interested in. Some of our webinars featured external expert speakers on issues of childcare, resilience for carers and an internal panel talking about flexible working which was a keen area of interest across all our Generations network members. The webinar series, and in particular the flexible working webinar, was very well attended and has received great feedback from our managers.

We also ran focus groups of 20-30 years old as their engagement scores were slightly lower which is reflective of many companies. Our focus groups so far seem to be indicating that many of this group have a need to know more about flexible working and opportunities for career development.

We also aimed to increase recognition of our brand through working with other partners doing work in this space and for any awards or press coverage we received.

The impact of our work

So far the impact of the Generations workstream, the employee network and in particular the GenMatch game has been really well received internally with almost 400 members joining in six months, managers and teams told us that they found the GenMatch sessions really useful and the webinars such as flexible working really well attended received with really positive feedback.  The Generations workstream and other HR initiatives have also contributed to a 5% increase in the engagement of under 30’s population.

We’re also really pleased our efforts have also been recognised externally as we have:

  • Won a ENEI Intergenerational Working Award,
  • Finalist for a BITC Responsible Business Award
  • Extensive press coverage including Sunday Times feature
  • Most recently the network has been declared an officially ‘Awesome Network’.


In my next blog post I’ll talk about what we have learnt and our focus for the coming year.

Stephen MarshallThis post was written by Stephen Marshall, who is the Sodexo Generations workstream leader. Stephen has been a Sodexo employee for almost three years and works within Corporate Communications as the digital communications manager. 


2 thoughts on “Companies need to think about the ageing workforce and intergenerational working”

  1. Great blog Stephen and sorry to have missed the event with AONR.

    Also well done Sodexo on all the various initiatives under way.

    There is so much doom and gloom around this subject in the media but there are also a number of opportunities for those organisations who embrace the demographic changes now upon us.


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