Our workplaces are undergoing a seismic shift. The diversity composition in organizations changes as they grow, and this transformation, in turn, brings a change in the organization's culture. Like other common diversity distinctions such as gender and disabilities, multi-generational diversity can be advantageous when built right. I, for one, see it as an excellent opportunity for India Inc. to tap into.
However, there are some inherent challenges:
A 2020 survey states that 33% of Indian employees face or have faced age-related bias at their workplace*. The survey found that India Inc. is biased towards age more than physical appearance, culture or religion, gender and race. Moreover, a study by SHRM reported that multi-generational diversity is not just an employee phenomenon; instead, its genesis is in the changes in the demography of organizations.
Battling any negative stereotypes, balancing communication style variants and gauging generationally different employee expectations are a few notable challenges when managing a multi-generational workforce. There is a pressing need to address concerns about generational gaps influencing leadership capacities and bringing in a shift in mentality.
Unsurprisingly, there are many inherent differences between generations. These could be due to shared life experiences and socio-cultural contexts. However, as we go deeper into the details of generational construct, we also start to see some similarities in values across different generational cohorts.
There is a huge benefit to be realized if we focus on creating personas based on what influences and motivates employees without stereotyping based on their age. Applying an objective lens and focusing on individual employee experience versus generational constructs will help create a sense of shared identity. This will provide new insights into effective practices toward a more equitable future of work.
At Lowe’s, we understood the need and the value of having a truly diverse workforce—which can positively impact business outcomes - early on. To unlock the power of a multi-generational workforce, we introduced it as one of our key pillars in our Culture, Diversity, and Inclusion agenda.
Each day, we strive to foster an unbiased culture and nourish a positive work environment by creating, sharing, and embracing generational experiences and opportunities. To foster (age) diversity and keep associates always on the learning curve, we have taken a multi-pronged approach, which includes:
We have been intentional about our listening strategy—Listen, Learn and Adjust. People are the building blocks of any business, and a diverse multi-generational employee body contributes insights to help you achieve your company's mission and vision. The idea is to create a workplace where opinions are heard and really count—irrespective of who they are coming from. When people feel valued, they are at their best, and the intergenerational tension gradually blurs and eventually disappears.
An “age-blind” approach helps mitigate any unconscious bias in all stages of the hiring process. Hiring based on skill fosters stronger loyalty and retention among talent and could be a mitigating factor amidst the current talent war.
Shifting to a skill-based approach, like all worthy endeavours, will necessitate a significant culture and process adjustment. It will, however, pay off in the long run, with employees feeling encouraged by the possibilities they are given and managers looking further afield to assemble the greatest teams for their projects. People become more creative, engaged, productive, and agile if you provide chances to everyone based on their skill data. It will also distinguish your company as a true champion of equal opportunity.
Heightened Mutual Respect and Knowledge Sharing
Creating and nurturing an environment where questions are embraced, and knowledge is shared provides a vast opportunity to learn from each other. Stereotype-based problems can be solved easily when a framework of mutual respect is established. The best way to accomplish the same is through the mutually beneficial process of sharing knowledge, which may come from the unlikeliest of places, garnering respect from peers irrespective of the generation one belongs to. The construct of our programs and initiatives fosters better communication and creates mutual respect, thereby accentuating the positive among the generations. Most of our learning interventions are designed to provide learning as much from peers as from the content of the program.
A multi-generational workforce has unfathomable depth. Employing people of all age backgrounds in the workplace adds to the workplace's dynamic nature and makes the business more sensitive and understanding to outside perspectives. A multi-generational workforce has inherent agility. Because a company with several generations on staff is used to account for people with varying perspectives and experiences, they are better positioned to respond appropriately.
At its core, like any other diversity and inclusion effort, taking a ’human-centric’ approach is central to how we bridge the multi-generational gap and embrace diverse perspectives to demonstrate the spirit of—we are everyone!