Generational diversity at work consists of having professionals of different age groups working in the same environment. Different expectations and mentalities can generate conflicts that, once overcome, favor innovation and the achievement of results in the company. Generational diversity in the workplace
What is generational diversity?
The concept of generational diversity in companies is simple and easy to understand. We talk about the existence of people from different generations working in the same organization , sharing the work environment.
It is, therefore, something that leads us to a plurality of age groups and, consequently, of professional and personal life experience.
There are those who think of this difference with a focus on generational conflict , but it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, it is important that this is not the case, because it is an unfeasible challenge for a company to only have employees of a certain generation.
How important is generational diversity?
It was not without reason that we chose to shift the focus away from conflict to the importance of generational diversity . In addition to being necessary, this plurality is beneficial for organizations.
To talk about this, we need to expand the conversation beyond the age issue.
We start with information from the IBGE that points out that men still participate more in the labor market than women .
The survey considers the population legally able to work and points out that, of the total number of men, 73.7% are in the market. Of the total number of women, the rate is 54.5%.
It is true that, in recent years, this difference has decreased. What draws our attention here is that gender diversity in the labor market is positive for the system itself and for society.
We can include other diversities there, such as sexual orientation and race, for example. Why this is all positive can be summarized in two key points:
- as we said before, a company is a part of the society in which it is inserted. At least, it should be so.
- another point is that diversity contributes to the plurality of knowledge and raises the level of innovation in companies . Generational diversity in the workplace
There is a study done by Forbes that indicates that the most diverse companies are up to 85% more innovative than the others.
As it should be, all this is also related to the diversity of the generational range. The “ways of doing” and worldviews are different for each generation and for each individual.
History and current scenario of diversity
It is easy to understand that generational diversity is a natural part of society. However, this was not always the case in the job market.
For many years, job opportunities were presented to young people and the “lifetime” of a professional was considerably shorter compared to the current reality.
All this because the reality of individuals was different as well. In the 1940s, the life expectancy of Brazilian citizens was around 45 years.
To understand the impact of this, consider that it was at the same time that the CLT emerged.
The regulation of work in the country took place in a context in which it was normal to think of hiring only young people ; that made a lot of sense.
Continuing with life expectancy as the north, what we know is that Brazilians tend to live, on average, 76.6 years.
To detail a little more, the expectation for men is 73.1 years and among women 80.1 years.
And the question is not just to live longer, it is to have longevity with health. We hope people retire at an appropriate age and can rest afterwards. This parallel is not an apology to work through to the end.
This change invites companies to revisit some paradigms and practices. In addition to hiring more experienced professionals, it is necessary to think about job positions, remuneration and benefits package .
Furthermore, it is interesting to reassess compulsory retirement policies .
Currently, a 55-year-old person may be in an excellent professional moment, wanting to remain active (and even needing it).
Hiring professionals over 50 years old
In recent times, different organizations have opened up to expand generational diversity by hiring people aged 50 and over.
There were more than a thousand applications in the first year, “with a reach five times greater compared to the traditional internship program”.
It is also explained that the program serves to “develop and prepare professionals for the job market. The main focus of the program is the inclusion of people over 50 who have returned to school in search of new opportunities”.
Hiring people aged 50 and over does not always have to follow this internship model. Each company can define how to carry out its admissions according to its objectives and possibilities. Generational diversity in the workplace
Generations in the job market
Categorizations have existed for a long time, but it is natural to get confused with this “alphabet soup” that needs to be unraveled in order to deal with generational diversity in more depth.
The confusion happens because there are many generations present in the job market today.
The ones that stand out in terms of volume of professionals are: baby boomers , generation X, generation Y ( millennials) and generation Z.
Some people still believe that the demands of the younger generations are not valid.
On the internet, in a special way, they define it as “mimimi”, an expression you may already know.
It turns out that every generation has its characteristics and, consequently, behaviors and expectations for professional life and work.
So that the top management and the company’s own HR do not feed any generational conflict, it is essential to abandon this notion that a certain generation is better or worse than the other.
The best thing to do is to get to know each one of them in depth so that you can understand them and know how to successfully promote generational diversity in companies.
And getting to know these generations that are in the job market is what you will do now!
Baby Boomers (1940-1960)
The end of the Second World War opened up space for an “explosion” of new births.
Thus, the Baby Boomers emerged , a generation marked by post-war economic stability.
But that is not all. Boomers have experienced many important moments in human history, from dictatorships and civil rights protests to the landing of man on the moon. Generational diversity in the workplace
In a way, even the youngest ones were able to follow all this. Like? Boomers were the first to grow up in front of the TV, having access to information in a way that previous generations did not.
Relationship with work
For boomers , work is seen as a top priority . For these professionals, having a job – any decent job – is more important than worrying about purpose or quality of life, for example.
In their day-to-day work, this generation tends to be more competitive and driven by results. If this is well aligned so as not to create conflicts, it can be quite favorable.
On the other hand, generally speaking, boomers have some difficulties that need to be pointed out:
- they prefer bosses to leaders and understand that the exercise of this function is linked to controlling others — the famous autocratic leadership ;
- do not handle digital transformation so well .
Generation X (1960-1980)
Keep in mind that it was this generation that followed the reality of both parents working outside the home and women more present in the market , seeking their financial independence.
If the parents of this generation grew up in front of the TV, this generation witnessed the emergence of new technologies such as the VCR and the personal computer.
Relationship with work
The paradigm shift impacted generation X. They are people who know how to better balance their professional and personal lives and this has promoted interesting changes in the world of work.
Their interest is in stability and to achieve it they are very dedicated and leave immediacy aside.
However, they are less competitive and more flexible, responding better to situations of unpredictability at work.
Furthermore, they better understand the concept of leadership that is more widespread today and, therefore, value the so-called soft skills more .
Generation Y (1980-1995)
Generation Y is better known as the millennial generation and probably represents the biggest generational impact seen so far.
People of this generation grew up following the development of the internet and being impacted by its stimuli .
The speed of information in the early 1990s is slower than it is today, but it represented a big change.
Millennials were surrounded by stimuli and got used to instant communication.
Do you remember ICQ , one of the first successful messaging programs? It’s from 1996.
With all this, this generation is more immediate and focused on short-term results.
Relationship with work
Instead of the stability that Gen Y values so much, the professionals of this generation are not afraid of changing jobs and, in fact, enjoy seeking new challenges .
Accustomed to stimuli, Gen X know how to multitask and dynamic, while they are also more impulsive and more focused on their own interests.
It was because of millennials that the idea of staying decades in the same organization ceased to be attractive.
It was also with them in mind that corporate benefits needed to be redesigned, opening the door to the concept of flexible benefits , for example.
In general, this generation does not like bureaucracy or routine , having more appreciation for flexibility.
Although they have not been able to impose their will, it is because of them that options such as flexible working hours have become a reality.
For these professionals, issues such as free dress code , flexible routine and home office work are as important as a good salary.
Generation Z (1995-2010)
Generation Z is the youngest among those present in the current job market.
It stands out for being digital native, that is, the first group born in a world where the internet and its technologies were already very present .
Currently, these professionals are the clearest expression of the future for the market.
And, to be clear, it is a future that has already begun and that continues to amplify generational diversities.
Relationship with work
With this, as well as Generation X, they understand that salary is not the main priority.
If, increasingly, companies strive to cultivate values that are well accepted by the society that makes noise on the networks, this has a lot to do with generation Z as well.
Young professionals are naturally connected. Living in a digital world that is almost their “ natural habitat ”, they are also critical, creative, resilient and sociable. On the other hand, they tend to be more anxious .
They are prone to entrepreneurship and more detached. For these reasons, they can provoke a new revolution in the actions of attraction and recruitment by HR.
Possible generational conflicts
To address the issue of possible generational conflicts, we will turn to Dado Schneider. Doctor in Communication, Dado researches generations and lectures on adapting to change.
In this context, he created the concept of digiriatrics to say that “we will all be old digital ones”.
Something that leads us straight to a very common conflict: the one caused by the different generational levels of familiarity with digital.
One of the main challenges is to understand that we live in a kind of originality. Different generations have always experienced some conflicts and needed different approaches. Generational diversity in the workplace
However, it is quite recent to have generations that are not digital natives (baby boomers, generation X) and digital native generations sharing the same work environment (part of generation Y and generation Z).
Roughly speaking, it is the first time that the younger generations have much to teach the older ones in the labor market. This changes the whole dynamic and can promote stronger generational conflicts.
This idea needs to be on the HR radar and, later on, we will talk about management in a context of generational diversity. Before, however, let’s go to the main possible conflicts!
When we talk about generational diversity in the job market, bearing in mind the history that we have recovered, it must be understood that younger professionals may have some kind of prejudice towards older ones.
Younger people can accuse professionals with more time in the market of being outdated , of being grumpy and closing themselves off to this contact.
It must be said that it is also possible for the opposite to occur, and this is nothing new.
It is not today that the elders condemn the lack of experience and maturity of newcomers to the market .
This dynamic needs to change for several reasons and one of them is that, nowadays, a 32-year-old professional can be the boss of a 55-year-old, for example. Generational diversity in the workplace
Communication has always been one of the most in – demand skills for professionals, regardless of their age.
Currently, communication also takes place through digital means, but not only, and this indicates the origins of yet another possible generational conflict.
Different generations have difficulty “speaking the same language”. Concessions need to be made on all sides so that the language is best adapted.
Younger people need to understand that not everything happens through digital, so it is necessary to know how to express in other ways.
The level of demand varies from position to position, but knowing how to write without so much slang and knowing how to speak in a more “formal” way can also be necessary to deal with older colleagues.
Likewise, professionals of previous generations need to learn to communicate in digital, using the tools and understanding the dynamics of asynchronous communication, for example.
If that doesn’t happen, disagreements tend to be more common . Noise in communication affects the organizational climate and the entire dynamics of teams.
How to manage different generations?
The issue of generational diversity in companies indicates a series of differences, points of attention, possible conflicts and so on.
Knowing this, we have separated some guidelines for management in this context. Check out!
1. Worry about cultural fit
Almost everything that is incumbent on HR is linked to what happens even before a new employee arrives at the company.
Bearing this in mind, if the goal is to have generational diversity and make it a success, it is necessary to be concerned with cultural fit in the design of the company’s recruitment strategy.
When creating vacancies, describing the organization and analyzing profiles, the company needs to look for professionals who know or are willing to work well with different generations .
This predisposition identified in the selection process tends to facilitate onboarding , the strengthening of a culture anchored in diversity and to minimize the possibility of generational conflicts.
2. Bet on awareness
You have certainly heard of or know parents who, at some point, had difficulties communicating with their children. This usually happens in adolescence and is something natural, although challenging.
One thing parents feel is that they don’t know how to establish this communication, and sometimes they regret that they try harder than their children. This is an interesting parallel to generational diversity at work.
If children could understand, with the conscience of an adult, that they also need to give in and seek understanding, everything would be simpler.
Perhaps it is not appropriate to ask this from teenagers, but from professionals in the job market, yes.
The development of an awareness policy on the diversity of generations contributes to making the differences known and recognized by all.
This makes it easier for a boomer to know how to deal with a millennial, a gen X to know how to deal with a gen Z and vice versa. Generational diversity in the workplace
It is important that people at all levels of the organization are involved in awareness-raising activities.
The reports are for everyone, the lectures too and the dynamics, if they occur, need to be comprehensive.
3. Update and diversify communication
Boomers are used to indoor bulletin boards and newspapers, and from millennials onwards, everyone prefers digital media. How to deal with it?
4. Understand the relationship of generations with work
We made it a point to help you with that when we told you how each generation relates to work.
This is because generational diversity is not resolved by trying to create a great middle ground for everyone, but by understanding the particularities of each group.
HR needs to understand what motivates each generation and what their expectations are to define the most appropriate strategies for each professional.
Yes, we are talking about something that may require an analysis at an individual level, but it may be less complex than it seems. See an example.
HR can do internal research to find out which benefits are most desired by each generation and by each professional on the team. Thus, it is possible to find ways to adapt company policies.
If boomers prefer fixed hours and prefer overtime to bank hours , the company can allow that to happen. In parallel, it can institute a flexible journey for millennials , gen X and gen Z. Generational diversity in the workplace
If any boomer wants flexibility, they can embrace it. If any X gen feels that they work better with a more regimented routine, they can propose to follow the standard schedule.
5. Evaluate the distribution of positions well
We mentioned that, currently, a 32-year-old person can be the boss of a 55-year-old. To deal well with generational diversity, the company needs to understand that hierarchy is not necessarily about age .
Respect for older and more experienced people remains fundamental, but since the arrival of millennials , younger people have a lot to teach them in the job market .
Considering, for example, digital skills, a younger professional may be better prepared to lead a team than a more experienced one.
Thus, it is necessary to go beyond age and consider qualification, profile, technical skills and soft skills to know how to make a good distribution of positions and functions.
Keep in mind that human capital is an organization’s most valuable asset and knowing how to use it well is strategic for success.
6. Create career plans for each generation
By itself, the existence of a career plan presented in the selection process can be a differential for attracting talent.
It turns out that, as seen, the generational diversity leads us to a reality that career priorities vary . Thus, it is necessary to bet on personalization.
Career plans must consider the expectations that each generation has for their professional and personal lives.
Consider, for example, that boomers tend to be more concerned about keeping a job, even if they stay in the same job for a long time. In turn, from millennials onwards, there is less attachment and more appreciation for the challenge. Generational diversity in the workplace
While some prefer stability and routine, others prefer the dynamism of changes. This defines what motivates each generation in their day to day work.
7. Avoid a single management approach
When we talk about Generation Z, we mentioned that they are more open to horizontal management models. This, however, would hardly work for a boomer and even Gen X might struggle.
The idea is not to implement completely antagonistic management models and create something chaotic, but to understand which approach adjustments can be made.
Management influences the way a professional responds to work, from motivation to results . Thus, it is in the company’s interest to seek what extracts the best from its employees.
What needs to be done in companies?
Generational diversity already exists in many companies, but perhaps not as consciously or as successfully.
Thus, there are some actions that an organization can take. Check it out!
prepare the leaders
Leaders act mainly by example. Thus, it may be necessary to prepare them to deal with age diversity in the best way.
Your attitude towards team members, regardless of their age, should inspire respect and lead to recognition of the benefits of diversity.
Create inclusion strategies
Implementing inclusion actions is something that needs to be part of the reality of any company.
To be able to reach all generations with these communications, it is appropriate to mix approaches, even simultaneously.
One possibility is to hold a lecture in person, for those who wish to be on site, with a live broadcast for those who prefer to watch remotely.
The strategies themselves are more effective if they consider diversity.
The future of HRs is data driven , that is, based on data.
Companies that want to have a more strategic people management need to know how to define, implement and monitor metrics.
Diversity indicators are part of this. Through them, it is possible to know how diverse the organization is and what are the impacts on innovation, for example.
Offer a whistleblower channel
In the best-case scenario, generational diversity leads to a positive and healthy work environment.
Even if we talk about conflict management , it is fair to hope that the benefits really are present.
However, it is possible for cases of hostility and discrimination to occur and, for this reason, it is interesting that a channel for complaints exists to guide new educational and, if necessary, corrective actions.