Multi-generational workforces require employers to adapt

Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce President Ray Smith introducing guest speaker Katie Iles at the recent business lunch at Opal Cove.

BUSINESS owners need to get comfortable with disruption within today’s multi-generational workforces; that was the message from communications strategist Katie Iles, guest speaker at Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon on September 6 at Opal Cove Resort.

Differences in communication styles and values have never been more pronounced than with the entrance of Generation-Z into the workforce.

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Ms Iles spoke of the importance for business leaders to be equippers for their staff; and how this looks very different for every generation.

“Generation-Z are people born 1995 – 2005, and they are the most tech-savvy, globally connected, socially networked generation in history,” said Ms Iles.

“They will be the most formally educated generation, and will hold seventeen jobs over five careers in their lifetime.

“They are opportunity rich, compared to previous generations, and they’re wildly entrepreneurial and want to make a difference in the world.

“Employers, and employees, all need to learn how to better understand, engage and work with this generation, and in fact, all generations, to attract, engage and retain talent across a multi-generational workforce.

“Combined with the use of technology, now more than ever, organisations are confronted with managing the differences of the multi-generational workforce.”

Ms Isles said this can present issues within an organisation such as negative stereotyping, communication challenges, and varying employee expectations.

“But there are also some exciting opportunities for employers, opportunities which may require the organisation to evolve to become more collaborative rather than hierarchical,” Ms Iles said.

“Younger employees are more tech-savvy and adapt well to the changes that technology brings; conversely more mature employees can offer knowledge and experience to help decision-making.

“Bringing together innovation and wisdom can improve productivity and the culture of an organisation.”

The challenge of combining these generations into one workplace is in acknowledging that each has its own unique differences, experiences and communication styles, according to Ms Iles.

This means business leaders are going to need to equip and empower their staff in different ways depending on their needs, as well as work on fostering a culture of collaboration.

Dan Heather, Group Leader City Prosperity to the City of Coffs Harbour, attended the event and shared, “Katie Iles gave detailed information for business owners, leaders and teams to gain a better understanding of how different generations interact in the workplace and what is valuable to them.”

Moving on to discuss future workplace culture, Katie Isles was joined by a multi-generational panel comprising Ryan Bear, Lawyer and Director, Coastal Law; Ben Roche – Vice President (Engagement), Southern Cross University; Nick Johnstone, Principal, Bishop Druitt College; and Jenna Haley, a special Gen-Z guest.

Jenna Haley, student leader at Bishop Druitt College and Gen-Z guest panellist at the Chamber event said, “My generation has grown up with the expectation of opportunities, having a say, and being able to contribute to work that means something to us.”

Jenna Haley is a proud Indigenous woman, who is currently studying Year 11 at Bishop Druitt College, and undergoing her School-Based Traineeship in health at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

“In my work experience so far, I’ve learned that there’s an old-school hierarchy which doesn’t give me the voice or recognition that I’m accustomed to, and I know I have work to do to ensure that I can fit into the current workplace norms.

“But over time, I’m excited about what I can learn from more experienced generations, and maybe the possibility that they can learn a few things from us, too – whether it be through communications or technology, or even just a different approach that might just work.”

If you’re ready to start engaging with the Gen-Z employees of the future, or interested in taking on an intern, school-based apprentice or trainee, contact the Clarence-Coffs Independent Schools Career Hub, who are connecting business with employees of the future.

You can find out more about the Career Hub at

The Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce will be running their next educational business event in mid-October.

Keep an eye out for details on their social media or visit


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