Give a GD about GD! Generational Diversity Works

The Careereon Blogging Team
October 6, 2023

You Should give a GD about GD!

The Impact of Generational Diversity in the Workplace

 

Every company has the goal to bring in the right people for every opening, whether due to growth, or simply backfilling for someone who has vacated their position. While targeting the right skillsets and expertise, there are also other important considerations to good hiring. The culture of an organization, the diversity of its makeup, and through the course of direct conversations and interviews, visualizing and assessing how well your candidate may mix in with the team.

When we think about ‘Diversity’, it is too often looked at simply as whether there is a fair, if not equal, mix of gender and race throughout an organization, including those at the upper management and executive levels. While companies, particularly larger ones who are typically under greater scrutiny for the makeup of their workforce, have responded well in recent decades to ensure there is equity in those two areas, there is still work to do.

If you look at any online job site, and review most job applications, you see that they now come right out and ask for the applicant’s Gender, Race, Disability and Veteran Status, and sometimes even deeper, personal questions. Such lines of questioning were once deemed as exclusionary no matter what boxes the applicant checks. Where most job postings are offering a single job, and receive hundreds of applications, 99.9% of those applicants, those not hired, are left to wonder if they perhaps checked the wrong box. And there is no way to know for sure. This is looked at as ‘progress’, and the earnest effort by companies to make the effort to consider and build a diverse workforce. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but for those who have job-hunted in recent years, it is often looked at as the most stressful, disappointing part of the application process.

The fact is that it IS important to have a diverse organization, and even if companies are still very much a work-in-progress on how to hire for and build a diverse workplace culture, there are areas beyond the main areas of focus today that companies should also consider to look at every candidate holistically.

Age & Generational Diversity:

  • Ageism is unlawful, and companies engaging in the practice are subject not only to private legal action but fines and penalties from federal and state law enforcement. While no one argues that there can be no broad strokes to eliminate any applicant over 35 or 40 or 50, it is okay to look at Age and properly assess its potential value.
    • Does a 50 year old bring in greater experience – in work and life?
    • Are those in their 30s and 40s more likely to have their own families? Does that make them more understanding of the busy lives, cares, pressures, and worries that come with parenting?
    • Does the 50+ year old worker begin to care for aging parents, such that they can offer a unique insight, and impart wisdom to other team members that may keep people grounded, better able to separate work and home to strike positive work/life balance and not ‘freak out’ when business pressures arise?
    • Can a recent college grade within their first few years out of college bring in new ideas that those incumbent employees perhaps have yet to think about, and might that fresh perspective and new way of looking at things inspire others to think differently and look to achieve success in a more modern, current way?
  • Only those within each generation can speak accurately to the era and time period in which they have grown up. The Mature Generation were those prior to the Baby Boomers, having fought in WWII, lived through The Great Depression, and is the generation that best exemplifies the word ‘Sacrifice’. While almost entirely out of the workforce today, their presence, and wisdom passed along to future generations still has a great impact on the workplace today. The Baby Boomer, given the name for those born in the decade or so after the end of World War II saw the economic and cultural boom of the 1950s, the birth of rock n’ roll, into the racial divide and political strife of the 1960s up through the Vietnam War. Its mix of ‘good and bad’ provided life lessons that future generations can only read about, but never truly feel what it was like to have lived during those years. Generation X, The Gen-X’er grew up mostly in the 70s and 80s, experiencing anti-war protests, political strife and fear, the taking down of the Berlin Wall, as well as the birth of MTV, ‘High Hair’, and the epicenter of what people think of as ‘Pop Culture’.

Who else can truly speak of that era but those from that generation? The same goes on for each generation. Regardless of the age and generation of a person, each comes with a unique perspective that only they are likely to have. There is no question that Ageism is Wrong, but ‘Age Diversity’ can be a valuable asset to an organization.

Cultural Diversity:

  • Culture is not race, nor gender, but the respect and willingness to honor and celebrate the customs and traditions of all those in an organization. While some companies took the easier path of excluding celebration of all cultures, more and more companies realize that this only serves to build poor culture, leading to less satisfied employees and higher attrition. With technology making it easier for companies to do business globally, the need for cultural diversity is as high as ever and will only get higher in the years to come, which makes it a ‘Must Have’, not a ‘Nice to Have’ for the successful business of the future.

Education and Experience:

  • When there is a role to fill, often times the prerequisites cannot be negotiable. If you are in need of a welder or a mathematics professor, hiring an experienced music teacher or human resources manager to fill either role will probably not work out to well for a business. But there are often roles that can be done through training and onboarding, shadowing and mentoring, for which the intelligent, hard-working person with a great attitude may flourish in and prove to be the right hire. There again are ‘nice to haves’ and ‘must haves’ for any position, but they need not always come down to the specific degree or educational concentration, or even prior job experience to determine the best fit. Over-precision of the hiring criterion can only ensure you will exclude many, potentially great, people from consideration. Think about the role, the current staff, and its ability to bring on a great person, cultural fit for whom they would welcome the chance to onboard. When there is opportunity for flexibility and a wide range and diversity of background, education and experience, it should be leveraged to the company’s advantage.

There are many other ways to think about what diversity means in a workplace and in a hiring process. Neurodiversity and those who think about absorb information differently, Language and Communicational differences, Belief Systems, Socio-Political and Economic backgrounds all bring unique perspectives that can make for a rich, diverse workforce that strikes a balance that can be incredibly powerful for a business. Rather than looking so specifically to find Similarities with the belief that such alignment will be the key to success, a business is far better served by bringing good people with different experience and viewpoints together to truly move a business forward.

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