In today’s dynamic workplace, companies often find themselves managing a diverse, multigenerational blend of employees of varying ages, backgrounds, identities, experiences, and perspectives. However, when organizations don’t do the work to create cultures of inclusion, these generational gaps and other cultural differences can lead to miscommunication, disengagement, misaligned priorities, and differing expectations.

Consider the impact of not having a culture of inclusion and belonging:

  • Wellbeing and belonging are workplace imperatives. Stress reported in the workplace is at an all-time high. Worldwide only 21% of employees report being engaged at work and only 33% are thriving in their overall wellbeing.
  • Twenty million U.S. workers (15%) quit their jobs in 2022.
  • The cost of turnover equates to 33% of an employee’s annual salary and benefits.
  • The time it takes for a new employee to reach full productivity is 6-8 months on average.

Generation gaps and the complexities of generational differences often fly under the radar in conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Bridging that gap is critical for creating inclusive multigenerational organizations that allow everyone to contribute to the mission of the organization in a meaningful way.

Understanding the Generational Divide: A Story in Three Parts

Part 1: It’s about people’s differences more than generational differences.

Within each generation there are people of all races and ethnicities, levels of education, religions, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, citizenship, socio-economic status, thinking styles, lifestyle choices (where to live, whether to have children), and non-work related interests – to name a few. The variations within a generation may be far greater than the variations between generations.

Part 2: It’s about how we change as we mature regardless of our generation.

Research tells us that the differences between younger and older workers are as much about how attitudes and values change as we move through the phases of life, as they are about a specific generation.

Millennials score lower on job satisfaction than Gen Xers, but early in their careers, Gen Xers were less satisfied than Boomers. Millennials are no more narcissistic now than Gen-Xers or Boomers were in their 20s and 30s. Narcissism (typically) reduces with age.

Part 3: It’s about events and trends that shape “generational ethos”.

As social creatures, we are all impacted by the world around us. For each generation, sociologists are able to identify the significant events that have shaped our world and understand how they have impacted our “generational ethos.”

Let’s talk about the Boomers (1946 – 1964)

BABY BOOMERS

Then there is Generation X (1965 – 1979)

Generation X

About those Millennials (1980-1996)

Let’s not ignore Generation Z (1997-2009)

Generation ZZ

Valuing the Differences of the Younger Workplace Generations

As a product of their experience, each generation has their own unique value proposition, and leveraging what they offer can be a huge competitive advantage.

And, if we take a closer look (and can set aside some of the stereotypes older generations may hold about Millennials and Gen-Z), we can see that what they want is good for business growth.

For instance, this portion of the workforce tends to:

  • Want more than a paycheck. They want meaning and purpose.
  • Want career development with organizations that will invest in them.
  • Don’t want bosses. They want coaches.
  • Want freedom to make choices.
  • Don’t want annual reviews, they want regular feedback and ongoing conversations.
  • Don’t want to focus on fixing weaknesses, but rather they want to work on developing strengths.
  • Want recognition for doing good work.

In other words, they want what we all want.

Getting from Here to There: Bridging the Generation Gaps

As leaders, how do we turn the “generation gaps” into “generation advantages?” How do we leverage the diversity of mindset, skillsets, and toolsets within our organizations so everyone feels seen, heard, and celebrated? How do we ensure that all employees are empowered and equipped to bring the best of who they are and their strengths to achieving the organization’s mission, vision, goals, and objectives?

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, below are a set of management strategies that can help set you on the path.

For Leaders

  1. Remember it’s About People. Recognize people’s individuality and meet them where they are. Avoid stereotyping. Get curious. Strengthen your Strengthen your emotional intelligence. Ask about values, expectations, goals, and dreams. Find out what matters most to people in your organization. Listen, listen, listen.
  2. Challenge the ‘Better Than’ Mindset. Recognize that no generation is inherently better than another. Focus on the unique skills, experiences, and perspectives each brings to the table.
  3. Foster Open and Respectful Communication. Encourage open dialogue between generations to foster understanding. Create spaces for people of all ages and from all backgrounds to share their experiences, concerns, and aspirations without judgment.

For Organizations

  1. Create Mentorship Programs. Establish mentorship initiatives where older employees can mentor younger ones, sharing their expertise and experiences, while also learning from the younger generation’s fresh insights.
  2. Create Reverse Mentoring Programs. Provide opportunities for newer or younger employees to mentor more seasoned ones, offering insights on shifting perspectives and expectations.
  3. Provide Training and Development. Invest in programs that focus on generational diversity and inclusion to help employees understand and appreciate their differences.
  4. Offer Team Building Activities. Create experiences that promote multigenerational collaboration, encourage employees to work together to appreciate each other’s strengths and build stronger relationships.
  5. Provide Leadership Coaching and Training for Senior Leaders and the C-Suite. At the highest levels of leadership, leaders might be operating in a bubble and holding a belief that they no longer need to focus on their own growth and development. This can lead to a fixed mindset and a lack of flexibility when it comes to the dynamic nature of workplace culture. Executive leadership coaching can be an important part of improving workplace culture and supporting more flexible mindsets.
  6. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements. Flexible work options can cater to multigenerational needs to help retain valuable talent from all age groups.
  7. Address Ageism. Combat ageism by evaluating policies and procedures to ensure equity.
  8. Make “Bridging the Generational Gaps” Part of a Broader Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. Implement formal diversity and inclusion programs that address generational differences as part of a broader strategy, signaling the company’s commitment to valuing all employees.

Supporting Your Multigenerational Workplace Through DEI and Cultural Intelligence Initiavies

Bridging the generation gaps in companies is a critical endeavor for fostering a dynamic and engaging work environment, for future proofing, and for ensuring long-term success.

Whatever differences exist in priorities, expectations, and mindsets, amongst the generations within your organization, they can be turned into strengths through open communication, coaching and mentorship, training, team building, and policy evaluation.

It begins with a commitment to doing the work. And we can help.

Churchill Leadership Group is your partner for all your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Cultural Intelligence initiatives. In addition we offer Leadership Solutions and Team Performance Coaching programs customized for your organization. Our executive coaches partner with corporate and government leaders from around the globe to accelerate the growth of leaders and teams of all ages. We invite you to contact us to day to identify and leverage your team’s generational advantages.

About the Contributor:

Gina Paigen, PCC, CPCC, CNTC is an executive coach, consultant, facilitator, diversity professional, and strategist; passionate about guiding individuals, teams, and organizations to a deeper sense of purpose, and to higher levels of creativity, engagement, and inspired action. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in executive coaching and coach training, diversity, equity and inclusion work, leadership, mindfulness, creativity and innovation, business development, team and culture building, strategic planning, entrepreneurship, neuroscience, and the arts.

Gina works with her clients across industries, in for-profit and non-profit, and from high-tech, biotech and academia, to agriculture and construction, to maximize their talent, create dynamic and inclusive cultures, build high-performing teams, expand creative capacity, foster wellbeing in the workplace, and deliver a healthy bottom line. Her initiatives are oriented around their real-world experiences and are directly linked to their performance objectives and desired outcomes.

Sources and Further Reading:
Research of Kim Lear of Inlay Insights

State of the Global Workplace

The Whys and Hows of Generations Research

Making Sense of Generational Stereotypes at Work

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