Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Generation X, Millennial or Generation Z; which one are you? I’ll go first. I am a Millennial, and I grew up in the 1990s/2000s. I had Tamagotchis (that I struggled to keep alive), I wore platform sneakers until they were falling apart, and I knew all the words to every Spice Girl song.
Each generation has its own fashion trends, favorite entertainers and shared cultural events. While you may have shared experiences with those of your generation, chances are that the people you work with come from different generations.
Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance consists of employees and agents from all generations. The company is made up of more than 1,600 employees and agents—some having worked at the company for decades and others who are just starting careers as interns. No matter the generation, each employee and agent brings unique insight to every situation because of the generation they were born in.
What is generational diversity?
Generational diversity is a term used to describe the age range of the workforce. Generational diversity is a metric that is often overlooked when organizations seek to improve inclusion and diversity in the workplace. Although generational diversity may sometimes be overlooked, it is no less important than other inclusion and diversity metrics, such as race or sexual orientation.
Generational diversity in the workplace
Generational diversity in the workplace has both its challenges and benefits. Two challenges of generational diversity are communication and differing priorities.
Employees in the Traditionalist and Baby Boomer generations may prefer more formal communication, such as in-person meetings or phone calls. Whereas employees in Generation X, Millennial and Generation Z generations may prefer more electronic communication, such as email and virtual meetings.
Additionally, priorities usually differ from generation to generation. Employees in Generation X, Millennial and Generation Z generations may work at several organizations throughout their career. Whereas employees in the Traditionalist and Baby Boomer generations may prioritize being loyal to one or two organizations..
Another obstacle to generational diversity in the workplace is preconceived notions employees may have about those in different generations. Not every Baby Boomer prefers in-person meetings or values staying loyal to one organization for their entire career. Likewise, not every Millennial prefers virtual meetings or values working at several organizations throughout their career.
Regardless of the generation you were born into, every employee is unique to their own likes and dislikes in the workplace.
The benefits of generational diversity include innovation and a bigger return on investment (ROI). As employees in different generations have different experiences and different viewpoints, it fosters innovation.
When employees in Traditionalist and Baby Boomer generations pass down the knowledge they have acquired during the years to employees in Generation X, Millennial and Generation Z generations, it leads to an increase in the organization’s ROI and improves employee retention.
Generational diversity is all about recognizing that you may have been born in a different generation than a coworker or manager, but it’s important to come together and learn from each other's work styles to accomplish the goals of the organization.
How to manage generational diversity in the workplace
The best way to manage generational diversity in the workplace is to embrace it. It may be tempting to standardize workflows and organizational communication to make them agreeable to employees of all generations, but in doing so, creativity and innovation may be inhibited. Instead, embrace the different ways employees prefer to work and communicate.
Utilize multiple channels of communication and integrate the various preferred working methods into workflows. While embracing generational diversity, it’s important to keep biases in check. Don’t make assumptions based on an employee’s age.
Every employee, regardless of generation or age, wants to be valued and appreciated for the valuable contributions they make.