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Managing different generations at work
Staff Reporter
update on Saturday, April 17, 2010

June Ng
Group director, human resources, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts


To achieve a high-level of engagement and commitment, it is imperative to ensure our employees from different age groups are able to relate and interact effectively with the company. While it may be true that different age groups share similar values, such as family, integrity and self-respect, they may express them differently.  

Understand the needs  

We conduct an annual staff opinion survey. Based on the findings, we have a clear understanding of their needs as well as their engagement levels. We follow up the surveys by conducting focus groups with employees of different levels and generations. At an individual level, feedback and needs of the employee are obtained through the performance review process, which is done twice a year. It is an online review, which appeals to the younger generation, who are particularly keen to receive regular and timely feedback and recognition.

Face-to-face meetings are also held to ensure that personal contact is maintained.  


In terms of employee benefits, we recognise that different age groups have varying needs and priorities. The older generation may focus more on health and medical insurance, while the younger generation may prefer lifestyle benefits.

Besides, the younger generation responds well to the high performance and fast-track talent development opportunities offered by the company. They have high expectations of the company and are constantly seeking new challenges, meaningful work experiences and a solid learning curve.

That is why Shangri-La has in place the International Exposure Programme, which gives employees the opportunity to work and learn in our hotels all over the world.

Leveraging on the experience of the older generation, our mentorship programme  enables the younger generation to learn and benefit from it.

We match our young talents with the senior mentors. It gives them a chance to receive feedback and to express their views freely.

Alessandra Piovesana
Regional managing director – North Asia, Nuance-Watson (HK)


Retail is a people-led business. To succeed in retail, we need to understand and respect the fact individuals have different values, ideas and ways of communicating. In our airport retail business, we are managing differences in cultures, languages, aspirations, needs and preferences among different nationalities daily. Each nationality has distinct attitudes, behaviour, perceptions, expectations, values, motivations, habits, and so does each generation of employees.

At work, generational differences might cause misunderstandings, employee turnover, difficulty in attracting employees and gaining employee commitment. If we are able to communicate and manage the differences, we can eliminate many major confrontations and misunderstandings, and increase productivity and quality of work.

Understand the needs

Open communication is the first step. It is imperative to cultivate an open-minded corporate culture and ensure two-way open channels of communication. It's important to create a positive and caring work environment.


Nuance-Watson (HK) has a unique model as part of the broad scheme of understanding employees and helping them to understand themselves as well as their customers. It is called "Insight Discovery Colour Profile", which is an assessment of an individual's work environment strengths and weaknesses based on responses to a questionnaire.

After completing the questionnaire, the individual will discover his/her profile characterised by a distinctive colour and associated with corresponding behaviour traits and tips for communicating. For instance, "Cool Blue" represents objective and detached, "Earth Green" is calming and soothing. It is a tool we use in creating a Personal Development Plan, supporting ongoing coaching programme, mixing and managing employees within the team to ensure optimal performance. It's one of the "soft" tools which lifts barriers and creates closeness.

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