When we talk about sustainability in our environment, it’s important to remember that its stability is not based on simplicity, in fact quite the opposite.
Our environment is not homogenous, and its most successful and richest parts, such as the tropical rainforest, consists of literately millions of species of plants and animals in a very dense area.
When we look at the organization in our workplaces, we believe the same is true, and the richest and most successful organizations are also amongst the most diverse.
Although they can be more complicated and difficult to manage, diversity is a strength and an asset for all organizations.
Having as many strengths is as important as ever due to the rapid pace of change today in virtually every industry – fashion is no exception! The rapid rise of active wear and athleisure in the last decade is a great example of this.
When we look at the apparel industry in the past, there were much more defined fashion seasons, but unfortunately due to the rapid pace of fast fashion they are not as pronounced as they once were.
Trends and fashion are changing so frequently that it is not only impacting our environment, but also the employees involved in its process from production to selling to supply as well.
It could be difficult for managers of companies to manage and listen to opinions of people from all generations keeping in mind the generational differences they have.
Employees could work well even into their 70’s and there is still an influx of new rising graduates that are recruited by companies every day – now this is turning out to be challenge for the companies!
Collectively, this makes up 5 generations working together at once!
However, this diversity challenge could be taken as an asset and advantage for each firm because it gets different perspectives, ideas, strategies and creativities all elevating the company’s growth!
This sustainable and healthy work environment is very much needed for the personal and professional growth of each individual employee.
Before heading into more detail let me talk about 5 generations I am referring here –
|Traditionalists||1927 – 1945|
|Baby Boomers||1946 – 1964|
|Generation X||1965 – 1980|
|Generation Y||1981 – 1995|
|Generation Z||1996 – 2015|
People from traditionalist generation must be currently aged between 70s – 80s, and although many have retired, there are still some who are working actively,. On the polar extreme, generation Z starts from employees those who must be 23 or less. Now imagine the difference of perspective towards various situations between these two generations. Where the traditionalist carries the great experience of life and have great lessons to teach, the Generation Z carries new innovative and creative ideas.
- Traditionalists are regarded as the hard workers since they came out depression period (1930) and got educated at the times when there were very few sources available for them. They are more loyal to their employers and haven’t switched much to new firms. They prefer personal interactions and paper work rather than giving every task on emails or digitally.
- Baby boomers who are now in their late 50s and 60s are holding the highest ranks and positions in their firms. They are more ambitious than their seniors but are loyal and hard working like them and usually prefer to work from the office.
- Generation X are currently in their 40s and 50s. Here is a little more shift in the work habits of this generation in comparative to baby boomers and traditionalists. Generation X focuses on being able to balance their work and family time both. Just like their seniors they are hard working too but very flexible and look forward for flexible work hours, schedules and relaxed working conditions.
- Generation Y (millennials) are currently in 20s – 30s. They are known majorly for being tech-savvy and creative specially technology wise. These are also called risk takers since millennials are the one who often switch their organization every 2-3 years. They believe in changing and are very goal oriented. Unlike traditionalists and baby boomers, generation Y prefer their all tasks to be done electronically. Generation Y is the one that brought in the trend of working from home.
- Generation Z are the youngest and newest to enter the workforce. They are very creative and seek for new adventures in their workplace and personal life. They like to have more fun environment in their workplace.
Although every generation is carrying some traits from their previous generation but there are added qualities in every generation unlike the previous one. This is very important for every organization to understand their workforce.
Understanding the Workforce
For an organization to be successful it not only needs great employees but also needs to know their employees and be able to retain them. Any organization can only keep on growing if it is keeping their employees satisfied and fulfilled .
Many investors are conscious of this, and investigate the rate of people quitting from the organization every year. The rate of people quitting their jobs has increased almost twice in a decade and the major reason is firms not being able to understand their employees and knowing what they could offer them in order to keep them motivated and stay in the organization.
Now this is a challenge for HR and managers both to manage this mix and keep their employees work together in a happy environment. According to recent HR surveys it has been reported that around 25 % HR’s reports highlights generational conflict among employees. That is obvious to happen if the generational diversity is not managed.
If we see 15 years from now the baby boomers (1946-1964) carried the higher workforce which now has swapped with millennials/ Gen Y (1981 – 1995), Gen Z is rising slowly.
Points that HR and Managers Could keep in mind while managing generational diversity
- Hiring a new employee, giving training and then sustaining them is a long process which requires investment in terms of company’s time and money both. An HR should first list down their own expectations from an employee and then see employee’s expectations and personality and then make a decision that would this employee be able to meet the vision of company & expectation of the role.
- When they will be able to meet needs and expectations of each generation, they will be able to have transparency about their recruiting processes. HR should conduct various surveys including questions that bring out every employees’ personality out more and questions asking for what they don’t like and what changes they are looking for in the organization.
- Training should be given to all employees periodically describing every generation and training every employee that how could they help different generation employees.
Dos and Don’ts to be kept in mind by management for each generation
- Traditionalists – Traditionalists like working on each task in more formal and organized way. Management should appreciate their efforts and respect their formal methods and protocols. Give time to them for in-person coaching conversation and ask them to train and pass their wisdom to others in the group. Management should avoid being personal, disorganized/unprofessional or using millennial slangs.
- Baby boomers – Like traditionalists, baby boomers appreciate a lot when their methods are respected. They are more flexible so at right they could be encouraged to use some new digital methods.
- Generation X – They value balance in work and personal life, try to offer flexible hours when rarely they ask. This generation believes more in working independently so it is good to give them autonomy in their tasks after explaining the requirements. Build their skills portfolio and keep updating them by giving them new challenges.
- Generation Y/Millennials – this generation likes to take challenges and is more inclined to work at an environment which brings new learnings and challenges for them. But they also need frequent guidance’s and appreciate to be mentored and guided by seniors whenever needed. They prove very good when work in a team. Train them regarding importance of working in an organized manner. Set new goals and targets for and give feedback on every task.
- Generation Z – This generation is like flower blooming in this world. They need to be trained and kept excited at the same time. Like Millennials, generation Z also love to stay in a more challenging work environment.
At first, all of this can sound overwhelming for management. Unfortunately, this is something that many firms are lacking behind and are not being able to figure out the core reason for increasing employee turnover. However, by understanding and making different generations of employees comfortable with each other is very important for a firm to work a team.
It will take time and patience, but these simple adjustments will prove very beneficial in long term. If all generations are taught about and respect the working style, habits and environmental generational differences of each five generations, it will be a win for employees, management, and investors.