Inter-generational Diversity within the Workplace

by Jeff Teale – Business Director – scouted.hr ~ Sourcing & building trusted relationships with the best Human Resources & Internal Talent Acquisition professionals across Australia

Last week I attended a presentation on ‘Inter-generational Diversity within the workplace’ hosted by EEON (Equal Employment Opportunity Network) and delivered by an accomplished HR Professional Kevin Henderson, Director, Human Resources, for Eli Lilly Australia Pty Ltd.

Leading into this event I was curious about the demographic of attendees. Would the Millennials and Generation X’ers (born post 1964) make up much of the room? Or would the Baby Boomers (Born pre 1964) outnumber the crowd? I was happy to learn that the room comprised an approximate 50:50 mix of attendees. This data was gathered through the means of a real time digital survey conducted on our mobile phones, and for those of you wanting to GENERALISE (more on this later)….. The baby boomers were PERFECTLY CAPABLE of utilizing their hand-held device to contribute to this survey!

Competition in the business world is fierce. Organisations around the globe are constantly trying to look for a competitive advantage. Fortunately for us working in Human Resources, it is becoming more and more evident that the ‘PEOPLE’ within businesses are proving to be the key differentiating factor contributing to their success. Developing a happy, engaged & inclusive workforce is leading to greater efficiencies, effectiveness and competitive advantage.

The topic of ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ is being discussed in a growing number of boardrooms all over the world. We are not only witnessing discussion, but also observing strategies being implemented to improve a range of people issues covering Gender, Disability, Culture & Religion, to name just a few. A lot of these strategies are achieving great outcomes, but what about ‘Inter-generational Diversity’? Is it this lesser known topic of Diversity & Inclusion that could elevate your business to even greater heights??

Next time you walk into your workplace, take a look around… Are your colleagues or employees about the same age as you, or is there a big variation? Simply put generational diversity means having a wide range of age groups represented within your workforce. But how can we benefit from this variance in age? Here’s a couple of my takeaways from last weeks session…

No place for Generalization/Stereotypes. There are a lot of stereotypes attached to different generations and workplace practices. Stereotypes around communication methods (preference of face-to-face OR digital), communication styles (differences with language used), operational preferences (Flexible & Agile VERSUS 9 to 5), along with different personality traits attached to age brackets. These stereotypes and generalizations are not productive and can create division with the team. It is imperative that these stereotypes are identified.  

Communication & Understanding – ‘Individual comes before anything else’. As a group we must come together in an open, safe and inclusive manner to discuss these stereotypes. It is imperative to hear from the different generations within your business and understand how/why these stereotypes have been created. Once we dive a little deeper, we may discover that underneath the ‘generational label’ is a human being, an individual whose differences aren’t necessarily attached to these ‘specific generations’. EVERYONE is different, and we must respect and recognize this. 

Leverage from and apply our learnings. The diverse range of experience and knowledge contained within our generational workforce can be an incredibly powerful asset to a business. Strategies can be implemented to effectively bridge the gap and lead to better business outcomes. These strategies could be in the areas of knowledge management, programs to integrate daily interactions across multiple generations, or longer-term inclusion programs to support an evolving workforce. These strategies should be developed and integrated throughout the entire employee life-cycle.

My final takeaway to pass on… Not only our TEAMS come from multiple generations, but our CUSTOMERS also come from multiple generations.  It is important to keep note of the correlation. 

I would love to know if anyone in my LinkedIn community is has witnessed positive or negative impacts of Inter-generational Diversity in their working life?

What is your workplace place doing to integrate their workforce and build their competitive advantage? 

About EEON

The Equal Employment Opportunity Network creates opportunities for professionals to learn, network, share their expertise and experiences and showcase examples of best practice in diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including emerging diversity issues. We encourage all members to provide feedback and suggestions for future events and webinars, and speakers.

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