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Understanding generational differences for competitive success

Amy Glass (Senior Facilitator at BRODY Professional Development, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, USA)

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 20 March 2007

Abstract

Purpose

The largest diversity of generations is represented in today's workplace than at any other time in history. With this diversity comes new challenges. The purpose of this article is to analyze the specific challenges, and also opportunities, inherent in managing – and working in – a multigenerational workforce. By focusing on research about the character traits of workers in each generation, and identifying the types of conflict that can result, managers can better understand these characteristics and work styles, and can leverage them to enhance both team and organizational success.

Design/methodology/approach

A wide range of studies and research was reviewed, and all revealed the methods to recognize the key motivators for each generation. By understanding and appreciating each age group's work style and personality traits, existing friction can be minimized and the assets of managing – and coexisting within – a multigenerational workforce is maximized.

Findings

Three primary generations exist in the business world: baby boomers, generation X, and generation Y (known as millennials). Each possesses unique characteristics that affect work ethic and relationships, how change is managed, and perception of organizational hierarchy: defining events in each generation's life all occurred between the ages of 5 to 18, the developmental years. The different backgrounds and life experiences result in five areas of potential workplace strife surrounding their differing expectations, distinct work ethics, deep‐seated attitudes, opposing perspectives and diverse motivators.

Research limitations/implications

More research on generation X and millennials and their role in the workplace in developing countries is needed. Another area that needs future research is how increasing globalization impacts generational cohorts in different countries.

Practical implications

The existence of a multigenerational workforce affects two areas of human resources policy and employee development efforts: retention and motivation. Employees of diverse age groups react differently to programs designed to address these two areas, and also have differing expectations. Companies may need to rethink their existing practices.

Originality/value

The article will deepen understanding of the differences that can divide generations and explore the benefits – and necessity – of creating and leveraging a multigenerational workforce.

Keywords

Citation

Glass, A. (2007), "Understanding generational differences for competitive success", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 39 No. 2, pp. 98-103. https://doi.org/10.1108/00197850710732424

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited