Generational Diversity's Impact on the American Workforce
Note: This is an excerpt from a comprehensive paper by this author.
Conducting a Google search on “Generational Diversity” generates 13,400,000 results. Unfortunately these results focus primarily on defining and refining the term generational diversity and do not address the growing adverse impact that generational diversity is having on the American workforce. This article is an excerpt of a paper that highlights the need to understand and address one of several major consequences that generational diversity is introducing into the workplace.
During the decades from 1940 to 1960 most American workers worked for one employer for most, if not all, of their careers. During the next three decades economic growth and prosperity created more jobs and more opportunities for workers to advance their careers and their income by changing jobs and employers. In addition, the rapid introduction of new technologies such as calculators, computers, the Internet and mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones further accelerated business growth and change. These changes have occurred so rapidly that older generation workers have not adapted to these new “tools” as quickly as the younger generations who grew up with this new devices and technology.
What’s interesting is that this rapid evolution of business change that I’m calling “Business Generations” are not associated with civilization generations, but rather are now defined by the evolutionary generations of technology. These business generations are introducing a new paradigm into the corporate workforce called Generational Diversity.
There is a growing Internet library of data being compiled that focuses on defining and documenting the characteristics and distinctions between the generally accepted “business generations” labeled … Maturists, Baby Boomers, GenX, GenY/Millennials and GenZ. And there is even a new iGEN which is still being defined.
The chart below (source: Robertson Associates) summarizes the principal characteristics of these business generations. Each generation has attributes and traits that differ, in some instances quite significantly, with regard to aspirations, attitude towards technology, attitude towards career, tools and technology (i.e. Signature product), communications media, communications preference and preferences when making financial decisions.
These distinct attributes and traits are going to make it increasingly difficult for companies with workers of Generational Diversity to effectively communicate and work together.
“Managing a multi-generational workforce is an art in itself. Young workers want to make a quick impact, the middle generation needs to believe in the mission, and older employees don’t like ambivalence.” Harvard Business School “Working Knowledge” Newsletter - April 17, 2006: “Can you manage different generations?”
IMPACT OF GENERATIONAL DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE
What this teaches us is that in today’s corporate world there are major differences in how workers of Generational Diversity think, perform, are motivated and work. These differences will undoubtedly lead to the potential for increased conflict and tension between the Business Generations within an organization. As a result employers will need to to effectively overcome and manage these differences in order to facilitate corporate success and reduce costly employee turnover.
Communication is the key to effectively bridging Generational Diversity within the workplace. Employers should first communicate and share the concepts of Generational Diversity with all their workers. Then employers should ensure that all workers are familiar and trained in the effective use of all the new business generation technologies used in the company. Finally, employers should establish and nurture a working environment of understanding and collaboration that will encourages workers of all Generational Diversities to help each other and to work together to be successful and flourish.
For more information:
Richard A. Langevin
Langevin Management Advisors