The multigenerational workforce demands balance The pandemic has underlined the importance of values in the workplace – a factor made even more critical as we go through a generational shift in the business space.
The current workspace is usually mapped across four generations: a few Baby Boomers, some Generation X, and an ever-growing cohort of millennials and Generation Z. Each is characterised by its varying values and unique approaches. A challenge facing modern managers is in ensuring quality output, innovation, and teamwork in such a diverse workplace.
The key to managing a multi-generational workforce is leadership. Nokwanda Shabalala – the first woman commercial general manager at Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa – is a prime example of such a leader.
Shabalala has learned to navigate several multi-generational workspaces, the legacy of male domination, and the Covid-19 pandemic using versatility and an open-minded approach.
“This is the first time we have had so many generational groups working together – and it can be quite a challenge,” she says. “Generation Z and Generation Y place great emphasis on the impact of their work on the environment, and on communities. These generational groups also demand a work-life balance.”
Shabalala says that while earlier generations might have always prioritised work as a definition of a good work ethic, the values of the current generation are forcing professionals to re-evaluate that mindset.
“My professional career started in investment banking, which is renowned for being output driven, but my professional journey since then and my role at CCBSA has encouraged me to re-evaluate my understanding of work ethic. It is an ongoing process for me.”
She says she has learned to value balance, boundaries, and compromise – not just between work and home life, but between the sometimes-competing needs of her team members.
“My leadership style is collaborative and places a lot of emphasis on allowing people I work with to apply themselves and grow, rather than just doers. I prefer not to give answers but rather collaborate with my team to derive answers. It promotes ownership of the solutions and greater desire to perform from the team.”