What If Generational Diversity United – Not Divided – Co-workers
By Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR & Linda Gravett, PhD, SPHR
Imagine walking into a workplace where co-workers ranging from 22-years-old to 60-years-old not only work easily side by side, but look to each other for advice and feedback. Would that not be utopia for every company?
Organizations that find a way to unite co-workers of all generations only stand to benefit in many ways, not the least of which is added profit to the bottom line. Unfortunately, this task is often challenging for many teams which are unsure how to handle generational diversity.
In today’s workplace, an organization can actually have as many as five generations represented:
- Radio Babies born 1930 – 1945 (62 – 77 years old)
- Baby Boomers born 1946 – 1964 (43 – 61 years old)
- Gen Xers born 1965 – 1976 (31 – 42 years old)
- Gen Ys born 1977 – 1990 (17 – 30 years old)
- Millennials born 1991 or later (16 or younger)
Each generation was labeled, according to sociologists, because of the different influences during the time period that they were growing up including social issues, parenting styles, politics, economic conditions, technology, etc. These different influences shape how they respond in the workplace with decision making, communication and work styles.
In the best situations, when companies learn to embrace these differences, the influences can create diversity of thought, less conflict, less turnover and even better talent management.
In today’s workforce, many organizations are faced with lost productivity due to conflict between older and younger workers with very different opinions on issues such as work ethic or work/life balance. Communication styles of younger and older workers are very different making it even more challenging for them to resolve the conflict. If generational diversity was promoted as an inclusive tool, companies would not have these conflicts and productivity for everyone involved would improve.
With varying statistics indicating that 30 percent of our workforce is seeking their next position, organizations are hurt each day by the cost of turnover. By promoting generational inclusion and educating employees about how to handle differences, companies could create a collaborative workforce so workers would be less likely to leave. The key way to do this would be by uniting through generational diversity. The more workers accept each other’s differences the more welcome everyone is going to feel and want to stay with an organization; thus reducing turnover.
In the current tight labor market and while facing a future labor shortage with a rapidly aging workforce, organizations that can manage the talents and skills of their workforce will be more likely to succeed tomorrow. The more united a workforce is in sharing diversity of thought through mentoring and succession planning, the more successful that company will be. If older workers work closely with younger workers to share their expertise and knowledge and younger workers are willing to accept and listen to what they have to share, everyone’s talents will be maximized. In a workforce that is generationally diverse and united, this can happen!
Often it takes opposing views to get someone to challenge the ways that are “tried and true”…. to try something new and different. If employees are united, they will we be less likely to conform and more likely to challenge the accepted way. Most organizations would like to benefit from improvements to the bottom line, have less conflict, less turnover and improved talent management. If generational diversity united all co-workers, it would actually be an organization’s utopia.
Bridging the Generation Gap: How to Get Radio Babies, Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers to Work Together and Achieve More by Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SPHR, and Robin Throckmorton, M.A., SPHR, was published by Career Press in January 2007. Strategichrinc.com/bridge.htm and Gravett.com/announcements.htm.