The breakdown of generational definers was great! It's useful to both employers and employees, supervisors/managers and supervisees. Now we hav to be open to seeing it in process in our workplaces and use the knowledge as a tool to help communication between generations.
5 Minutes of Your Time: The basics of Generational Diversity
In just five minutes or less, enhance your understanding of a new kind of diversity in the workplace: Generational Diversity.
The diversity of today's workforce is unprecedented in terms of race, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, disability and socioeconomic status. And now, for the first time in our history, four generations are working side-by-side in the workplace.
This generational diversity presents opportunities for innovation, growth, improved performance and unparalleled success - if leveraged wisely and inclusively. However, as we have seen when any type of diversity is managed poorly, generational diversity can also open the door to conflict, balkanization, resentment, and decreased productivity.
- How do you attract and retain the most talented employees from each generation?
- How do you lead and motivate a multi-generational workforce?
- How do you tailor your message to clients from different generations?
- How do you increase the appeal and relevance of your products and services in a multi-generational world?
How do you successfully communicate your message across today's generational divide?
The key to thriving within this blended workforce is to raise your awareness about all four generations, paying particular attention to generational markers and generational profiles.
Each generation has its defining moments. Social scientists refer to the events that define a generation as markers. Such markers usually occur during a generational cohort's formative years (5-18 years of age). Markers can include events and trends in:
- Global, national, or local politics;
- Demographics and diversity;
- Inventions and innovations;
- Popular culture;
Frequently, tragedies and triumphs serve as generational markers. For example, the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy shaped the cohesion-in-the-face-of-tragedy culture of the Baby Boomers as much as the 1969 moon landing influenced Boomers' collective belief in exploration and expansion.
Generational Markers form a set of collective experiences that help to shape a generation's values, attitudes and behaviors. It is these values, attitudes, and behaviors that compose the generational profile.
Each generation profile is marked by distinct commonalities. Understanding what makes each generation 'tick' is critical to understanding which messages will be effective and which messages will be ignored - or worse - perceived as offensive or divisive.
Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945):
- Skilled manual laborers;
- Believe that respect must be earned by "paying your dues";
- Value traditional family structure;
- Prefer to pay for things with cash;
- Adhered to traditional gender roles.
Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1964):
- Learned to share early in life and grew accustomed to teamwork;
- Can-do attitude;
- Sacrificed home life for work;
- Supportive of growth and expansion;
- Used credit and loans to pay for big-ticket items;
- Explored non-traditional gender roles.
Generation X (born between 1964 and 1981):
- Skeptical of authority and unimpressed by title alone;
- Marry and start families later in life;
- The first generation that is NOT better educated than the preceding generation. Also has less earning and buying power than previous generations;
- Succeeds at non-traditional gender roles.
Millennials (born between 1981 and 1997):
- View the world as fast-paced, interconnected, and round-the-clock.
- Reserves respect for those who lead by example;
- View parents as role models and long for traditional family structure;
- Prefer to be paid right away (instant gratification);
- Accustomed to and accepting of alternative lifestyles.
Generational Profiles can influence:
RECRUITMENT AND HIRING: What strategies will bring the ideal candidate to your door? How do job candidates pursue employment opportunities? What will ensure loyalty to their employer?
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AND RETENTION: How do employees internalize the mission and goals of their employer? What incentives motivate each generation to higher performance?
ORGANIZATIONAL AND INDUSTRY-WIDE CHANGE: How will employees react to changes in structure, policies, and procedures? How do we best prepare them for layoffs, leveraged buyouts, and mergers? How might they express resistance to change?
PUBLIC AND CLIENT PERCEPTION: How do clients and customers respond to marketing based on generational profiles? Can these profiles help us predict their consumer habits during the recession?
Consequences of ignoring generational differences
A lack of understanding regarding generational differences can:
- Contribute to conflict in the workplace;
- Decrease the retention of dedicated employees;
- Lead to frustration on the part of senior staff who misinterpret a seemingly aloof younger generation.
- Foster disengagement by younger staff who encounter entrenched hierarchal structures.
It's important to approach potential generational differences with the same care and balanced perspective that we ideally bring to other demographic differences.
Remember that our objective is not to develop a set of strict stereotypes so that we can more easily and quickly pigeonhole people. Rather, our objective is to increase our understanding of the motivators and expectations of each generation, then use this information to make necessary shifts in our thinking and approaches to communication.
Learn more about the author, Emily Williams.
Comment on this article
Posted by Susan Anderson, Ridgewood, New York |
Apr 21, 2009
Posted by Janis Flagg, Kent, Washington |
Apr 21, 2009
Good article! Appreciate your thoughts on this subject. This is precisely why I offer free consultations to each generation in a family when a couple is planning a wedding if a different generation is paying for a wedding. We all know that conflicts can come up under times of stress and I want to make sure that money doesn't trump what a couple wants to make their day special. On the other side of the coin, I need to bring the younger generation to an understanding that not everything dreamed of can be paid for with just any budget. Basically, just getting everyone on to the same page.
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