Close the Generation Gap to Help Diversity Thrive
Millennials will soon be taking over the modern workplace. By 2025, it’s estimated the largest generation will make up about 75% of the global workforce, leaving the remaining 25% split between the older Generation X, the first wave of younger Gen Z, and even some Baby Boomers.
Though Millennials will clearly make up the lion’s share, the fact that four distinct generations will be represented in the workplace shouldn’t be overlooked. This is the very definition of diversity—people of different characteristics (including age) sharing common goals.
Companies with such a unique mix of age groups should consider themselves in a position to thrive. But as one age group tends to dominate the workplace, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that all minority groups feel they are equally represented. And with such an enormous difference in numbers of Millennials versus non-Millennials, achieving this balance is easier said than done.
How, then, can business leaders work to close this generation gap so that team diversity in the workplace can fulfill its role? Let’s look at some strategies other companies are using to reduce conflict and create an inclusive environment for all ages.
CREATE A CULTURE OF ENGAGEMENT
Every employee wants to feel like they matter, regardless of age. Business leaders should make it clear how each role fits into the organization and how they’re contributing to something larger than themselves.
This shared vision can also foster a community of collaboration, another essential factor in closing the generation gap. By leveraging different perspectives and backgrounds, every worker can feel like they bring something to the table and feel empowered to share their ideas without fear.
DEVELOP MENTORING OPPORTUNITIES
Retiring Baby Boomers are leaving behind leadership positions that will need to be filled by experienced, capable individuals. And while Millennials are eager to step up to the challenge (and bring their modern, tech-heavy know-how with them), often they lack the years of experience that can help them to succeed in these roles.
Creating mentorship opportunities allows young and old to work together and learn from each other. Younger generations will earn the benefit of specific market expertise, while older workers may pick up new skills that can help to bridge the generational age gap.
EXAMINE YOUR HIRING PRACTICES
Business leaders could be sabotaging the generation gap without realizing it. For example, companies like PwC have come under fire by recruiting heavily on college campuses. The argument is that anyone of any age can graduate college, but the reality is that these practices could amount to age discrimination.
Companies who don’t diversify their talent sourcing arguably won’t be able to diversify their applicant pool. It’s important to extend workplace diversity to all areas of the company, including where and how you look for qualified workers.
INVEST IN ONGOING EDUCATION
Younger, tech-savvy generations hold an obvious advantage over older workers: the ability to learn and adapt to new technology quickly. Millennials grew up in the information age and are well-positioned to bring their experience to work. Employers value their tech-savvy skills because they help the company to remain competitive without having to invest in teaching these skills to older workers.
However, business leaders shouldn’t overlook the fact that older employees can learn new skills when given the opportunity. Promoting a culture of ongoing education, both self-directed and company-sponsored, can give older generations a chance to grow their own value and become more competitive in the workplace.
CONSIDER GENERATIONAL PREFERENCES
Each generation of workers may have its own values and preferences regarding job satisfaction. For example, many Millennials want flexibility in their work, such as flexible time off and the opportunity to work from home. Older workers may prefer the standard 9-to-5 workday. Younger workers consistently ask for feedback, while older workers may be comfortable with an annual performance review.
Companies should do their best to be flexible to each generation’s preferences as long as it doesn’t pose a threat to the company’s culture.
KEEP DIVERSITY GOALS AT THE FOREFRONT
Last, but far from least, remember that informed employees are engaged employees. Your team should understand why your company values diversity in the first place and how it benefits their career goals and the company at large.
Consider conducting a diversity training session each year that talks about the tangible benefits, such as greater innovation, lower turnover, higher profits, more opportunities, and a better reputation. You should also build diversity training into your onboarding process for new hires to set the right tone from the onset.
Workplace diversity can take your company to a whole new level. Learning how to create and manage diversity in the right way will allow you to better leverage its benefits.