Today’s workforce is taking on a significantly different makeup. Older generations are deferring retirement, and millennials, the dominant cohort of today’s professionals, continue to enter the workforce1. Having a greater longitude of experience, training and attitudes — with inclusive leadership and organizational models that draw on generational differences — can be a competitive advantage. According to Cloverpop:
- In general, teams make better decisions than individuals 66% of the time.
- When adding diversity to the equation (including age, gender and geography), teams make better decisions 87% of the time.
If people in the company better mirror the general population and can bring different perspectives and skills, the organization can drive targeted and purposeful innovation. Combining the knowledge and history of experienced generations with the fresh take of newer generations can lead to more successful outcomes, particularly when the mix is carefully tailored to the task at hand.
However, differences between new generations and old can create frictions in an organization and, if left unchecked, negatively impact its performance. Such biases can discourage collaboration, cohesion and the flow of new ideas, thus hindering innovation. At the same time, there is opportunity for these frictions of different experiences and points of view to lead to innovative ideas, higher-quality solutions and more accurate decisions.
For organizational leaders, this intergenerational friction drives some clear inclusiveness imperatives:
- Seek out multigenerational views, making greater generational range a priority. Set organizational and team structures to embrace and reward a culture that actively draws on the voices of multiple generations.
- Plan for the growing “new normal.” Anticipate the generational transition and put mechanisms in place now, such as establishing mentorship programs. As boomers retire, knowledge transfer and succession planning for clients, governance and strategy will be key challenges.
- Recognize that true two-way communication includes all voices. Proactively seek out input across the range of cohorts in the organization. Creating a “shadow board” of millennials, boomers and Gen X to advise and offer inputs could be one way to develop inclusive leadership at the highest echelons of corporations.