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Managing Generational Diversity in Organizations

Very soon, and for the first time in history, five generations will be working side by side. Nowadays people are living longer and, therefore, working until later. This event led us to this new situation. However, by putting members of different generations working together we are both presented with an opportunity and a challenge: the opportunity to involve a group of people with unique experiences and skills and the challenge of dealing with the generational differences that distinguish them. We have been trying to define what factors drive each generation and what they value the most at a professional level and what we know by now is that every generation that enters the labor market adds to it a unique set of motivations and gains and, consequently, the differences between generations can affect the way organizations recruit and form teams, deal with change, motivate, manage people, and encourage productivity.

At organizations are currently converging the following generations [7]: veterans (born before the year 1945), baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), GenXers (born between 1965 and 1979), Millennials (also known as

Generation Y, born between 1980 and 2000) and Post-Millennials (also known as Generation Z, born after 2000). It is important to refer that due to the young age of the Post-Millennials, the studies about this generation are still inchoate.

These five generations,[1] formed in completely different social, economic, and cultural contexts and that, according to those contexts, have developed different skills learned to, consequently, value disparate skills. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the historical events have influenced in a profound way the values of every generation. These events have the power to refer to people emotions and memories and are able to shape the way people feel the importance of family, career and even money. And it is enough to think about the events that marked these generations to realize that the needs of the job market also suffered very significant changes. For example, to an administrative that is a veteran, the use of the computer was not a reality until many years after the beginning of his career while currently it is basic computer skill for any administrative born in Generation Y. As we can see, several professions have undergone profound changes with the technological developments—some have fallen into disuse (typists and archivists) and others are now setting their position (social network manager, for example).

Understand and appreciate the factors that influenced the contexts that have shaped each generation can be a great help for organizations since the development of recruitment procedures to the implementation of the organization’s talent motivation strategies. Similarly, it can still be a relevant contribution in the recognition of their gains and how to maximize it, urge their success, and involve people in the organization.

The constant search for competitive advantage, driven by a changing context, encourages organizations to deal with people management as seriously as they do with technological developments. Along with the changes in the social values and global economy, it is also important to reflect and constantly reformulate the needs of human resources. The evolution and growth of professionals will largely depend on the effective performance of the managers, aiming a healthy working environment and aligned with the organizational goals. This is the current challenge for the upcoming years so that the organizations keep their workforces motivated, in order to put the best skills of each generation to the organization’s service and, consequently, obtain a better performance from the entire team.

We will briefly examine the Generations baby boomers, X, Y and Z. It is important to note that the generation veteran is already retired or about to, so it will not be focused on the present analysis. Similarly, and regardless the generation they operate in, people are different and their needs are also diverse, so we cannot assume that the members of each generation are equal. We can just assume that, due to the context in which they were born and grew up, it is possible that they share similar perceptions about the world.

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  • [1] It is important to refer that the time periods between the generations can suffer slight variations.
 
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