By T. Hudson Jordan
Director, Global Diversity & Talent Strategies
Pitney Bowes, Inc.
Diversity within an organization has evolved over the years to encompass the many ways in which people differ from one another. Early diversity conversations may have focused solely on race, while today, the term diversity encompasses a range of factors that influence how individuals interact and propel companies to success. Increasingly, the conversation about diversity is one about generations.
Do you work with someone of a generation different than your own? The answer to this question is a resounding yes for most of the workforce. Today, there are up to four different generations working side-by-side within large organizations. Key characteristics of each generation, including how they approach work, work/life balance, and employee loyalty, among other aspects, vary greatly. These differences can become a problem if they become negative generational stereotypes. This can cause conflict among teams and departments, hampering productivity and morale in the workplace.
Many factors in the workplace support fostering inclusion, where team-based decision-making is the norm And, similar to other differentiating characteristics among individuals, a multi-generational workforce requires awareness, increased communication, and an inclusion strategy to make productive use of generational differences.
Generalized characteristics are often associated with each generation. Awareness of these characteristics can help employees better understand an individual’s actions and motivations, but it’s important not to reinforce stereotypes, either positive or negative. Having sensitivity to these characteristics can help managers and employees better structure their work interactions and policies to increase productivity.
Arm managers and employees with the communication skills necessary to resolve disagreements before they turn into conflict. Because generational differences can deal with an individual’s personal values, generational disagreements within the workforce are often emotionally charged. Once a situation turns into a conflict, it is much more difficult to mitigate such intense feelings among employees.
Incorporate generational opportunities into a company’s diversity and inclusion strategy. The number one message of any inclusion strategy should be to respect differences. Without an inclusion strategy, the workforce will be left without the right resources and tools to effectively deal with their differences. Increased awareness, communication, and an inclusion strategy will help organizations address how various generations can work together. Although each generation has its own preferences in how to work, adaptability and flexibility are needed to help organizations leverage the differences created by such diversity. The move to a more dynamic management style will enable greater collaboration, creating an inclusive environment. Inclusion represents opportunity for growth, new knowledge, and global community. A team-oriented culture will also spur the cross-fertilization of ideas, resulting in innovation that earns your company a competitive edge.