Diversity in the Workplace: Generational Differences

Giang provided a summary of the results of a study conducted by the global consulting firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) that collected and analyzed data from more 1,200 professionals—managers and non-managers–from different generations and industries in an effort to understand how they perceived the strengths and weaknesses of workers from each of three generational groups: Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers.  According to Giang, the respondents perceived Millennials as being “tech-savvy”, but not very good at collaboration and teamwork.  Generation X workers were praised for their entrepreneurial thinking; however, they ranked low on “executive presence”.  Finally, the consensus about Baby Boomers was that they were loyal to their companies and were “team players” but they often had difficulty adapting to change.  Specific findings reported by Giang on the strengths and weaknesses of the three generations and the things that they were likely to find most important as “motivators” were as follows: 

  • Millennials were perceived to the most “tech-savvy” and adroit at using social media tools to leverage opportunities.  Millennials also were the most enthusiastic about their jobs; however, the group scored lower than the other two groups on being a "team player", "hardworking" and being "a productive part of my organization".  Knowing when and how to get a promotion was more important to Millennials than to members of the other two groups.
  • Members of Generation X were recognized as the “most effective managers” compared to managers from the other generations and also scored highest with respect to being a "revenue generator", possessing traits of "adaptability", "problem-solving" and "collaboration".  The group fared poorly on measures of “executive presence” and “being cost effective”.  Members of Generation X could be distinguished from the other two groups by the greater importance they placed on “workplace flexibility”.
  • As mentioned above, Baby Boomers outdid their colleagues from other generations in areas such as “being a productive part of the organization”, being "hardworking", and being a "team player".  Baby Boomers also enjoyed mentoring others; however, the group ranked the lowest on being adaptable and collaborative.  Not surprisingly given the specific challenges associated with their age, Baby Boomers were more likely than their younger colleagues to focus on the health care and retirement benefits offered by their organizations.

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