ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 3rd, 2022 - Today’s workforce is a melting pot of generations. The U.S. workforce currently has five generations of workers, each having their own motivations, preferred style of communication, worldview, and approach to work. Deepak “Dee” Agarwal, seasoned C-Suite executive and entrepreneur, explains the generational differences in the workforce and breaks down the ways businesses can turn this diversity into an advantage.
“What leaders need to realize is generational diversity is not bad for business. It can, in fact, serve as a catalyst for success. The secret is in determining what motivates each generation in the workforce, learning how to talk to them effectively, and designing strategies to promote productive collaboration,” Dee Agarwal says.
Why Diversity Works
Generational diversity in the workplace supports success by having people of different ages and backgrounds with varying points of view, promoting innovation and inventive problem-solving. Additionally, creating an environment that cultivates mentoring is also a rewarding component of having a mixed workforce. Younger employees can turn to their more experiences co-parts for training and development, potentially improving employee retention and satisfaction in the long run.
“Generational diversity in the workplace impacts a number of factors in an organization. One of the most beneficial may be from a marketing and sales perspective. A diverse workforce can help businesses understand a diverse target audience,” Dee Agarwal points out.
So how do the generations stack up? What’s the best way to motivate and manage employees from each generation? How do leaders prepare their businesses for a workforce primarily comprised of Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers within the next year or so? Keep reading as Dee Agarwal provides his insight into the key differences that make each generation unique in the workplace.
As the first generation to experience modern conveniences, such as public infrastructure, spacious suburban homes, and television, Baby Boomers, or those born from 1946 to 1964, have learned to value independent decision-making, team collaboration, and long-term experiences.
“To communicate effectively with Boomers, keep in mind that they grew up in a world without computers and the internet, so they typically prefer phone calls or face-to-face interactions,” Dee Agarwal says.
Known for their worldview that achievement only comes after hard work, Boomers are also career-oriented and plan their goals around their work.
“To motivate them, leaders should provide them with specific goals to reach and deadlines to complete these goals within a reasonable amount of time. They work well in mentor roles and prefer receiving feedback as if you’re coaching them,” Dee Agarwal explains.
With the majority of startup founders belonging to this generation, according to research from Purdue University, Generation X, or simply Gen X, is identified as versatile and digitally savvy, and much like their parents before them, hardworking.
“As workers, Gen Xers prefer flexible work arrangements, believe in good work-life balance, and will often strive to achieve these no matter the cost. To motivate them, leaders should provide not only opportunities for personal development but also immediate feedback to help them improve,” Dee Agarwal says.
Although largely passed up by hiring managers, according to research from CNBC, most Gen Xers excel in leadership roles in this age of digitalization, when companies are struggling with efforts at digital transformation.
Often mislabeled as lazy and entitled, members of Generation Y, or Millennials, are actually competitive and achievement-oriented. Born between the early 1980s and the 1990s, it is the largest generation in terms of population in the United States.
Millennials are also considered digital natives and, as such, they are not only well-versed in technology but also well-connected.
“Their reputation is undeserved. Millennials are actually passionate individuals. One of their most distinguishing traits is their desire for innovation and sustainability. While their preferred communication is through instant messaging, including texts, and email, they want to work under leaders who take the time to know them personally. They also desire immediate feedback and a lot of flexibility in their work schedule and roles,” Deepak Agarwal shares.
Members of Generation Z are often confused for Millennials in the workplace, mostly because of similar characteristics, such as their preferred communication styles and their complete immersion in technology. Gen Zers, however, are more motivated by diversity, individuality, and creativity than their Millennial counterparts.
“Because they grew up during a time when battles for equality were fought on many fronts, they view diversity as a necessity. Diverse and inclusive companies often win the hearts of Gen Zers,” Dee Agarwal points out.
To motivate Gen Zers in the workplace, leaders must provide them opportunities to work on multiple projects and demonstrate a value for work-life balance and independence throughout the organization.
To aid employees in embracing generational diversity in the workplace, leaders must take the time to cultivate an environment of inclusion and collaboration to ensure that every individual’s voice is heard and respected throughout the organization, regardless of their generation and level of experience. Additionally, adapting the organization’s policies and or ways of working for each generation will help employers gain the trust and loyalty of their team members.
“Organizations must not only recognize the stark differences among generations but adapt the working conditions to best suit them for success. For instance, allowing flexible work schedules and remote work can benefit most employees across different generations while supporting the company's growth goals and benchmarks,” Dee Agarwal says.
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