We know there are multiple generations in our workforce today, right? The older age groups are delaying retirement and more young people are starting to skip college to look for full-time work. But did you know the challenge of having five or more age groups working in the same office is giving rise to generational tension? That's what human resources expert Jeanne Meister is saying in her book "The 2020 Workplace."

"These different age groups can get along, with some training," says Meister. "There is something called 'generational intelligence training' which is now creating a really interesting opportunity for companies. We remember the days of 'emotional intelligence.' Now companies are saying individual company leaders have to be able to collaborate with anyone across all age generations. That's the first thing. The second thing is companies are recognizing the youngest members of the workforce have the best skills around social media and workplace technologies. So they can turn into mentors for the older employees. That can create a path that both ends of the workforce can meet on."

Meister and co-author Karie Willyerd opine 10 trends have already reshaped the workforce:
1. Shifting workplace demographics.
2. The knowledge economy - highlighting the changing nature of work towards scarce highly skilled jobs rather than lower skilled transactional work.
3. Globalization - workforces are no longer local, regional or national, but rather are transnational and transformative
4. The digital workplace - redefining the nature of work and the means of collaboration
5. The ubiquity of mobile technology - not only in the office but also with the virtual office and with the availability of mobile learning.
6. A culture of connectivity - we work together and with each other much more than we labor alone.
7. The participation society - people want to be involved in their work, how it is done and the meaning behind their contribution.
8. Social learning - recognizing that formal instruction is not particularly well suited for building the expert skills required for trend #2.
9. Corporate social responsibility - companies that are good corporate citizens attract the best and most talented people to be their citizens.
10. Millennials in the workplace - have more experience and their experience is different which shapes unique expectations that are easy to misunderstand.

Meister says more companies are beginning to think critically about the range of technologies avaiable in today's workplace, and then offering the appropriate age-based training to every part of their workforce.

Thanks to Facebook and LinkedIn among others, she adds the fastest growing age group of social media users are people over 50, so the younger generation(s) can also learn about how others use networking tools, especially in the workplace.

One of the companies Meister cites in her book is the cosmetics giant L'Oréal. She says they have deliberately brought together their entire workforce to openly talk about the myths and perceptions, right or wrong, of each particular generation. But then she says they go one step further, by attempting to determine what the company can do to accommodate each generation in their workforce.

L’Oréal does that Meister says through a series of short, succinct employee communications that are chunked out, as opposed to disseminated in long, rambling emails which are often ignored by many younger employees. They have also utilized mobile devices and gamification for their employee training and development for all ages.

"Companies are saying individual company leaders have to be able to collaborate with anyone across all age generations."

The Millennial generation is a particular focus of the first part of The 2020 Workplace, since that group is expected to comprise nearly 50% of the workforce in just four years.

In Part II, Meister and Willyerd showcase HR and Learning practices companies are using now to address those shifts. Examples include Deloitte's use of a video contest to help recruiting, internal social networks for collaborative communication at Cerner, several examples of mentoring and microfeedback, and leadership development at Cisco. Part III includes 20 predictions for 2020, such as electing your own leader, and concludes with advice on how to prepare for 2020.

In addition, the authors conducted two global surveys. One asked 2,200 working professionals what they want from their employers. The other asked 300 employers how they are preparing for the future. The authors also created case studies based on more than 100 interviews with the leaders of innovative organizations, including Cisco, NASA and Deloitte. They learned how progressive firms and their human resources departments plan to recruit, develop and retain top employees.

Have you heard of the book? Read it? Know anyone who has? We would love to hear some comments from you about the book, as well as how you are dealing with multiple generations in your office, or with your clients.

Tags: Reviews, Mobile technology, Multi-generational, Multi-generational workforce, Age-based training, Employee communications, Generational tension, Globalization, Jeanne Meister, Milennials, Social learning, The 2020 Workplace, Workplace demographics