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Communicating Across Generational Diversity

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“There’s magic in being seen by people who understand—it gives you permission to keep going.”

Alok Vaid-Menon, Beyond the Gender Binary 

This month we are revisiting our September 2023 newsletter on Communicating Across Generational Identity. As Baby Boomers exit the workforce and Gen X and Millennials move up in their leadership roles, organizations are making room for Gen Z’ers joining the workforce. Although there is certainly overlap, there are a few key characteristics of each generation’s working styles and their perspectives on work that differ.

I recently attended the 2024 Society for Human Resources Conference (SHRM), and I noticed a recurring theme amongst speakers and leaders of frustration or annoyance about generational differences in the workplace, with most of the angst directed towards members of Generation Z and the youngest members of their teams. This theme is echoed in my conversations with leaders that we work with as well–I’ve observed insensitivity towards mental health/wellness, a lack of recognition of the necessary skill building for these youngest staffers, and frustration that Gen Z tend to prioritize their lives outside of work. The reality is, Gen Z’ers are the future of work and these biases and preferences for different ways of work rooted in generational difference will need to be worked through. The youngest generations will continue to evolve how we approach our work, what the workplace environment is like, and how your organization serves the communities you work with. So, what are we doing to communicate and work across these generational differences?

This resource is a great opportunity to stop and reflect on how your organization works across generational differences. It includes two exercises that with a TREC webinar on this topic as well as a worksheet to co-create a work environment that can support everyone on your team. When leading these activities, consider having facilitators from different generations represented.

Be sure to check out the additional materials at the bottom including several TREC resources to support stronger collaboration and feedback practices within your organization.


DEI NEWSLETTER – SEPTEMBER 2023

For the first time in history, our workforce spans five generations- The Silent/Traditional Generation (2%), Baby Boomers (25%), Generation X (33%), Millennials (35%), and Generation Z (5%). Every day, 10,000 Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age as Generation Z is entering the workforce for the first time. By 2028, Gen X will outnumber Baby Boomers however, 65% of Baby Boomers plan to work past retirement age. For Millennials and Gen Zers, most haven’t been in work environments without technology. Millennials tend to avoid phone calls and prefer online messaging platforms, email, and texting. However, Gen X is showing a preference for face-to-face communication (NDMU, 2022).

To effectively support teams with diverse age groups, it’s essential to first recognize our generational differences and biases. How have significant cultural and historical events shaped my generation? How does belonging to a certain generation influence my communication style? How does it affect my leadership approach and decision-making? How have these factors contributed to the organizational culture and my own work experience?

People are not easily categorized; our identities are multifaceted, and our individual identities form a complex whole. These generational characteristics are not meant to be prescriptive or universal. A Baby Boomer might love texting and a Millennial might prefer to meet face-to-face. This resource is offered in the spirit of increased understanding of how a diversity of lived experiences impacts the workplace. Inclusion is the practice of understanding the diversity in the room and allowing that diversity to shape the way the work is done. Once we understand our default behaviors and their potential impact on others, we can foster inclusivity for various approaches—regardless of what generation we are a part of.

In solidarity,

Cairá


What is this resource? This resource includes two exercises to understand the impact of generational differences in the workplace. The exercises can be facilitated by an Executive Director or DEI lead for the full staff or the DEI committee across multiple sessions. Exercise #1 can also be used as pre-work for Exercise #2. 

Who is it for? 

  • DEI committees
  • Full Team

What will you gain from this resource? Communication and leadership styles associated with each generation   Identify biases that impact our understanding of generations   Strategies to work across generations and leverage our differences to increase our impact and success   Collaboration practices and feedback protocols

ACTIVITY TYPE

Webinar, Worksheet, Reflection, Debrief

ACTIVITY TIME

2.5 hours

RESOURCE QUICK LINK


TREC: Collaboration Practices and Feedback Protocols 

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Background Image: American Rivers | Scott Bosse

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