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January 5, 2022

The Multigenerational Workforce: A D&I Challenge?

3 min read
By Maryam Mohamedali

70% of organisations say leading multigenerational workforces is important for their success.

Only 10 percent say they are ready to address this trend.

(Deloitte Insights)

Perennials. A consistently reliable flower type that graces our gardens with bright splashes of colour and joy. Think daisies and lavender.

Their Latin name is Perennis, meaning ‘through the years’.

Gina Pell, an award-winning creative director and tech entrepreneur, has more recently given Perennials a different meaning:

“Perennials … describe[s] an ever-blooming group of people of all ages, stripes, and types who transcend stereotypes and make connections with each other and the world around them.”  These are “people of all ages who continue to push up against their growing edge, always relevant, and not defined by their generation.”

This concept captures an emerging trend that strives to look beyond generational labels to understand people on a more distinctive and meaningful level. That is, we must aim to understand people based on their individual and unique needs, rather than the generation they belong to. This places yet further focus on a familiar matter: Diversity and Inclusion

As individual career paths continue to zig-zag, and swift technological advances urge people to reinvent themselves, we’re more likely to see a Gen X and Gen Z working alongside one another. This contributes to making the workforce more diverse and intersectional than it’s ever been.

For this reason, the question of how to navigate the multigenerational workforce is at its core, a D&I challenge. It’s the challenge of getting people with different perspectives and experiences to communicate, include and respect each other.

Looking upon the challenge of the multigenerational workforce in this way gives us some insight on how we might navigate it.

One of the reasons why D&I initiatives might fall short is that D&I is seen as a training, rather than a value. The result is instances of engagement with the topic of D&I, rather than living and breathing a culture of D&I. Thinking about the multigenerational workforce, how might we develop a culture around it?

Here are five tips to help your people embrace multigenerational working at both the organisational and the individual level:

  1. Bake it into your values and business objectives
    • Embed cross-generational collaboration and perspective-taking into the company’s values and business objectives. Use clear and explicit language when doing this.
  2. Live and breathe those values
    • Drive a culture change through business leaders. Enlist business leaders to champion the company’s values by setting an example. For this to be done well, they should be seen collaborating, co-creating, and learning cross-generationally in your workplace.
  3. Recruit people that align to the values and objectives
    • Hire people that align with your inclusive values and that represent a preferred future culture the company is aiming for. Being transparent with these hires about the company’s inclusivity objectives and desired future relative to current reality, can position them with the right mindset to be culture activators.
  4. Consistent coaching
    • Provide sustained coaching that progresses skill and ability overtime. This will provide opportunities for employees to alternate between learning styles as they bring their day-to-day experiences into an explicit learning environment, and vice versa. This also sends the message that cross-generational collaboration and communication are abilities that take practice.
  5. Create spaces that facilitate sharing
    • Provide opportunities and spaces for people to engage in dialogue and perspective-taking. This could include safe spaces for people to share their experiences and stories. It might also include a co-creation experience wherein multi-generational groups workshop a solution to a problem. Aim to get people to see something from different and new perspectives.

Today’s workforce is made up of at least 4 different generations, meaning it will become more and more common to encounter Perennials. The more we continue to be surrounded by people of different generations (at work, but also at home), the less relevant generational categories become in distinguishing between people in the workforce, and the more people leaders can focus on individuals.

Need a hand with your multigenerational workforce? Talk to our People Experts. 


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