Young, Old, and In Between – Northwest Employers Embrace Generational Diversity!
The Northwest is often looked at as the mecca of diversity. Our population is classically diverse and our workforce reflects a wide range of ethnicity and cultures. Northwest employers have learned first that that when a company expands the range of ideas, perspectives and experiences of their employee group, they also expand their ability to innovate. This belief about appreciation of diversity is well entrenched in the Northwest business culture.
Unfortunately, over the last several decades it has been discussions about gender and ethnicity that have dominated the diversity landscape. Today, Northwest employers are looking for ways to embrace a new form of diversity that is rooted in the variation in age and age related experiences that are now an emerging reality with its own set of challenges and management nuances. We call this type of diversity – “generational diversity” because it relates not just to age, but the shifts in cultural values and workplace norms that are surfacing as a result of so many generations of employees now working side by side.
Let’s play a quick round of “Three Truths and a Lie” related to generational diversity. Which of the following 4 statements is false?
1. Older workers aren’t retiring at the same rate as their predecessors and are staying in the workplace longer than predicted.
2. The workplace can now include up to five (sometimes) six generations of people working side by side!
3. Despite 50 years of anti age discrimination regulations, older workers are still experiencing age-related discriminati
4. Older workers contribute best when placed in jobs that don’t require them to learn new skills.
If you pegged #4 as false, you’re right! Here are the details on each of those statements:
- A recent survey by the Gallup organization found that “whether by choice or necessity, baby boomers will remain a sizable proportion of the workforce in the years ahead, with many expecting to work past the average U.S. retirement age of 61 and even the traditional retirement age of 65.”
- The four generational groups that currently make up most of the workforce are the Baby Boomers, the members of Generation X, Millennials, and the members of Generation Y (sometimes called Postmillennials). Although they are no longer a statistically significant segment of the workforce, some members of the generation that preceded the Baby Boomers are still working, too!
- In a survey conducted by AARP in 2013, “approximately two-thirds (64%) of older workers (ages 45–74) say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.”
- When you look at the data, this stereotype falls apart quickly. Researchers have found that, thanks to their life experiences, older people actually are more likely to innovate than are their younger counterparts.
How many times have you heard something along the lines of “older workers can’t contribute as much as younger workers”? Or seen hiring decisions based on age related biases – “she doesn’t have the maturity we are looking for in this hire, ” or “the last millennial we hired was spending more time on their phone then they were doing their job. We just aren’t willing to take another chance.”
While our pop culture tends to promote the idea that “younger is better”, we also see a lot of talented younger job seekers get overlooked in a hiring process because their 1-2 years of work experience doesn’t quite stack up. Let’s get real – how could it?
Our view is that a multi-generational workplace is both a necessity and an opportunity, not a liability. We are seeing first hand how how Millennials are reshaping the workplace – using new technologies, bringing in new attitudes about work, and using very different communication methods if not styles. We find their generational inspired changes in every corner of our organizational and social lives. Most of these changes have added significant value to how we do work.
We also know that in the rush to embrace younger workers, smart companies and their leaders are also finding new ways to embrace the special contributions of their older workers. In fact most of the boomers are very busy right now training and mentoring their future replacements.
Northwest employers are finding new ways to take full advantage of both their younger and older workers or run the risk of losing the competitive advantages they have fought so hard to gain. We know that each generation as its own tool box of ideas and perspectives – with no one set of beliefs and values more important than the other. We need them all! Companies who haven’t figured out how to manage a multi-generational workplace are narrowing their options which ultimately will impact their bottom-line.
What does all of this mean for Northwest employers? It means that organizations still need to fully embrace diversity – and not just sex, ethnicity, and age, but the thought diversity that underlies all those differences. A leader’s ability to negotiate around and build the performance capabilities of their team while embracing both the differences and the similarities between people, are the skills of success. Its an exciting time for managers who thrive on learning and growing – figuring out ways each day to be more effective than they were the day before.
If you’d like to learn more about managing multiple generations in the workplace, join us on Tuesday September 19th at 10:00 am PST for a 1-hour webinar where our guest speaker will be discussing When Boomers Meet Millennials – The Art and Science of Managing Generational Diversity. We’d love you to hear what management experts have to say about “best practices” in managing “generational diversity” Click here to register.
This program has been pre-approved by HRCI for 1 HR (General) recertification credit hour.
The use of this seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s® (HRCI®) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval.
Our speaker is Valerie M. Grubb of Val Grubb & Associates Ltd. (www.valgrubbandassociates.com) who is a frequent contributor to our HR Insights Magazine, and also known for her exceptional ability to zero in on the systems, processes, and personnel issues that can support or hamper a company’s growth. Grubb regularly consults with mid-range companies looking to expand. She is the author of Planes, Canes, and Automobiles: Connecting with Your Aging Parents through Travel (Greenleaf, 2015) and Clash of the Generations: Managing the New Workplace Reality (Wiley, 2016). She can be reached at email@example.com.