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What Is Generational Diversity?
Generational diversity means having different ages represented in your workforce. This doesn’t mean you have equal numbers of each generation in your workforce. However, positions requiring different levels of experience assist you in accomplishing this diversity. From entry-level to manager, senior, director, and executive positions, it is common for these different levels to require more experience, leading to a more diverse age range.
Why is Generational Diversity Important?
With so many things to focus on each day, you may be wondering why you need to have gender diversity on your radar. Here are four reasons why you should be aware of generational diversity.
- Knowledge and skills. Whether your employees have a wealth of experience or are just starting out, they all bring something to the table. Technology and the market are ever-changing so having diversity in your workforce can help your organization to be more adaptable. Younger generations can help older generations and vice versa in different aspects of their professional development.
- Perspective. As human beings, our perspective is influenced by events during our lifetime. Having diverse perspectives can increase the quality of your product and equip your company to prepare for the future and its rapid changes. The best products are the result of culminating opinions and differences.
- Clientele. More often than not, your product is being sold to a generationally-diverse population. We are often drawn to what we can identify with so age diversity strengthens your marketability. It also improves your corporate responsibility image to the public.
- Succession planning/employee value proposition. Change is imminent in every organization, and sometimes employees are put in a role with no one to orient them. Having age diversity can lead to mentoring relationships, assist a company with succession planning and dramatically increase the chance for long-term success.
What are the Challenges that Come with Generational Diversity in the Workplace?
Differences don’t have to lead to conflict. Increasing awareness and understanding around differences can lead to a stronger workforce and collaboration. Here are four differences between generations that could be challenging in promoting age diversity.
News outlets, business articles, and academic research associate certain characteristics with each generation. However, just because someone was born in a certain year does not mean they possess those characteristics. There are people in their 50s who could teach younger generations to maximize their technology utilization. There are millennials who possess an incredible work ethic and determination. Don’t let generational assumptions create discord in your organization.
Each generation wants to fulfill their professional and personal goals through their work. Employees who are closer to retirement may be focused on having flexibility and preparation for retirement rather than ascending the career ladder. Middle-aged employees have mortgages and families and want to have balance in their lives. Younger professionals are hungry to learn and grow and sometimes seek for the fast track. You can’t satisfy all of their individual needs, but having some covered goes a long way in employee retention.
Different generations hold varying beliefs about the appropriate amount of tenure before they search for another job. Even though these values are not true for everyone, they are generally worth considering. More often than not, baby boomers have worked for the same company over a 20+ year span. They started at the lower levels and worked their way up. Generation X holds a shorter tenure of five to seven years, while some millennials are only at a job for two years before they want to move on. These different tenure lengths hint at differing values among your workforce.
Every industry has its unique challenges to age diversity. Some organizations seem to attract a younger population due to the skills required and changing circumstances the business is facing. Others have more experienced employees because they are selling to other businesses or outsourcing some of their department work. Regardless of your industry, take measures of your current employee age demographic. Set goals to increase diversity within a set timeframe and then remeasure. This statistic could be reviewed on an annual basis.
How To Manage a Generationally-Diverse Workforce
Multiple generations in the workplace will be a constant for the foreseeable future. Whether you are advising a manager or need to discuss the next steps, being able to work efficiently with different age groups is important. Here are four things to consider.
Step 1: Promote Collaboration and Different Work Styles
Constant learning is a successful business characteristic. Each of your employees brings different strengths to your organization and their specific role. As your employees collaborate, they bring their expertise to make projects successful. They can strengthen each other and forge greater company unity.
As employees attempt different working styles, working together and asking questions can lead to process improvement. Focusing on a top-down hierarchy can help employees focus on what they can control rather than what they cannot.
Step 2: Encourage Cross-Generational Mentoring
The most important characteristic of cross-generational mentoring is that mentoring goes both ways. Younger employees can teach vital skills to more experienced employees and vice versa. This mentoring can lead to new product ideas, connect your company with your clientele and create a sense of belonging at your company.
Step 3: Focus on Commonalities
There is more that connects your employees than divides them. Yet sometimes organizations and academic researchers focus on what makes each generation distinct. Employees benefit from these differences but are also united by the common desire to be part of the company goals, culture, and vision. Focusing on these things will create a better understanding between generations.
Step 4: Check Your Biases
When a certain position becomes available, an ideal candidate profile may come to mind. Remember to focus on the skills and job responsibilities rather than age, gender or race. Checking your biases will keep you and your organization out of legal hot water and help you find the best talent for your position.
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Brent Watson enjoys problem solving, analyzing data, team building, and becoming an HR Guru. His work experience comes from the employee experience, recruiting, and training arenas. After attending a local HR conference, Brent knew that he had found his people and the problems he wanted to solve for in the business world.
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