When an individual is task to observe an organization, the first thing they notice would be the demographic profile of the people working within the organization. Usually, employees are profiled according to race, gender and culture. Nevertheless, mostly overlooked is how organizations are also diversified according to age. The variability according to age is mostly overlooked because organizations does not see any merit to this classification unlike with race and gender which are usually critical issues of discrimination. However, there are some organizations that prefer to hire senior employees believing that they bring with them wisdom gained through years of experience. Others prefer to hire newly graduates believing in the idealism and innovativeness that is commonly associated with the youth.
Regardless of this notion, diversity according to age in organization is mostly overlooked and in fact, disregarded because many are too conscious of the legal, social and ethical consequences of not employing the other kinds of diversification measures. Organizations failed to realize the significance of generational diversity particularly in shaping ideas and forming values critical to the organization. In lieu with this, this paper aims to study generational diversity and how it impacts the organization. This is done by identifying the pros and cons of this particular kind of diversification measure in the organization.
Background of the Study
In an organization diversity is defined as a business strategy that encourages variations and differences that exist among its employees. These differences particularly relates to race, gender and culture. The goal of employing workforce diversity is in the belief that a highly diversified workforce can better serve a diverse set of clienteles. Business diversity sprung out of the need for organizations to foster equal opportunity in employment some time during the 1960s. Diversification of workforce was center around the concept of affirmative action. Businesses at that time were asked to comply with the policy relating to the objectives of equal opportunity employment. The said policy was designed to protect every American from being discriminated at work by virtue of certain factors like gender, race, culture, religion, and color .
Diversification of the workforce has been associated with the concept of tokenism. This concept asserts that an individual is accepted into the organization as a response to compliance and also to improve the image of the company as having to include members of the minority group into the existing structure . In other words, diversification efforts was simply to deflect the discriminatory impression that society have on business organizations. Specific to the concept of tokenism is the issue referring to organization purposely hiring Blacks in a white dominated organization, or hiring women in a male-dominated industry. In addition, tokenism also covers the hiring of disabled individuals regardless of whether they are qualified or not simply for the purpose of compliance. However, tokenism defeats the purpose of diversification thereby creating the negative impression of diversification. The principle of diversification of the workforce is to help organizations strategize as well as help individuals who are classified to be outside of the dominant group to be included into a system. These two sides of the diversification of workforce is presented using two specific business models—(a) the social justice model and the (b) deficit model .
The social justice model supports that members of the minority should be included to the prevailing system because it is the right thing to do. In addition, while this model is patterned after the concept of tokenism it still greatly consider the criteria that only the members of the minority who is a perfect fit to the role is assumed to the position. On the other hand, the deficit model supports that diversification measure costs the company because it will only harbor an imbalance in the existing social system.
Organization employ different sorts of diversification measure. Commonly used diversification plan includes diversity based on race, gender, color and religion. Generational diversity refers to that kind of diversity that is based on the people’s age . Cari Dominguez, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that the commonly neglected kind of diversification model is the generational diversity plan because organizations often do not see the relevance of adapting generational diversity. In fact, according to Dominguez 66% of organizations does not even have an active age profile of their employees .
In 2008 a study initiated by the University of Minnesota explored the topic on generational differences in the workplace . According to Tolbize, the American labor force is categorized into four distinct generations. These include: (a) the Traditional or Silent Generation, (b) the Baby Boom generation or the Baby Boomers, (c) the Generation X and (d) the Generation Y. Each of the four generations is described and classified in the module. The description of each of the four generations comes with the identification of the age belonging to each group. It also enumerates the characteristics, the strengths and weaknesses of each group and their respective role in the organization. The module helps organization see the benefits of a diversified company based on age group. It allows a framework that helps organization carefully design a generational diversity plan fitted according to the needs of the organization.
The Traditional or the Silent Generation
The traditional generation is the oldest generation in the group. The age group for this generation are those within the age range of 59 years and above. The individual from this bracket are those who were born before 1945 or somewhere around 1922. This group has been largely influenced by the Great Depression and the World War II. Considering the social, political and economic conditions of the time that this generation has been exposed to, they were largely influenced by these forces. As a result, individuals from this group are very conservative. They value commitment, dedication and respect. The traditional or silent group has high regard for protocols, the hierarchy, the chain of command and word of honor. They also rather stick with the conventional method or the traditional business model than incorporate change that offers no guarantee. In other words, many of the people from this generation are not risk takers.
The Baby Boomers
The baby boomers are those who were born between the years 1943 and 1965. Approximately, the people from this group are within the age range of 48 to 53 years old. Callanan and Greenhaus (2008) described the generation as pig-in-the-python. The baby boom title, however, was given to this generation because of the explosive growth in the number of babies born during this period. This generation are selective in as far as who to bestow their trust. Thus, they were made to believe that anyone over the age of 30 cannot be trusted . The generation is born during a period experiences abundance and positivity. As a result, this generation is confident, optimistic and are charged to change the world. The group is very hardworking and they believe that everything can be earned with hard work, determinism and dedication.
The Generation X
The people from this generation were born between the years 1968 to 1979. Approximately their ages are between 24 to 40 years old. Since they followed the baby boom, the immediate reaction of the generation that follows is to control the population. As a result, this group is comparatively lower in number. It is also a period marked by economic difficulties. Children of this period have seen their parents get laid off from work and have witness that gradual but very difficult period when America experiences decline in power and influence. Children born during this period have been left by their parents to fend for themselves because of the greater need for both the man and the woman to assume a paying job outside the home. As a result, these children called the Xers became very self-reliant and independent having to grow up taking care of their own needs with the absence of both parents during their formative years. Also, because of the extreme difficulty of their parents in sending them to school Xers value education and advance learning. While they are not loyal to their employers, they are loyal and dedicated to the families and friends. Xers are also assertive and are not afraid to raise questions, express their opinion or raises their objections.
The youngest of the four generations, members are within the age range of 23 and below. This group was born between the years 1980 to 2002. This age is governed largely by the digital age and technological breakthrough. This generation has been pampered as largely due to parental excesses and technological comfort. However, aside from the capacity of the group to be sustained by technological advancement they have the ability to be multi-task and are very adaptable to change. High optimism and a sense of drive is also evident among this group because they believe that everything is feasible and nothing is impossible given the technology that the generation has.
Purpose of the Study
The proponent of this study aims to determine what the advantages and disadvantages of generational diversity in the organization. By enumerating the pros and cons of this diversification framework the organization will be able to learn the impact of generational diversity. This study will help the organization to use the information about the age profile of their workforce to understand how such data can be utilized to benefit the company in terms of efficiency and productivity.
Significance of the Study
This study on generational diversity will benefit the organization is maximizing the potential of each generation or group working within the company. The organization will be able to understand their employees’ behavior and attitude towards the nature of their work. In addition, positioning and task assignment will be more efficient if the organization is aware of the defining characteristics of each employee base on the classification of generation that they belong to.
Scope and Limitation
This study will focus on the advantages and disadvantages of understanding the impact of generational diversity to the organization. This will include a description of each generation’s social, political and economic influences, the characteristics, behaviors and attitudes of individuals from within each of the four generation. In addition, this study will also identify what motivates each of the members of the four generations. These are identified for better understanding of how the information generated from this study can be useful to the organization in its desire to maximize the full potential of every employee within the organization.
Organization of Report
This report was organized by first understanding the trends that organizations adapt in terms of how they diversify their workforce. By understanding and realizing that generational diversity is not commonly recognized, this paper will highlight how this process of diversifying workforce base on age is facilitated. This will include identifying each of the four generations that classifies the American labor force. It will highlight the influences that shapes the character, the behavior and attitude of every member of each generation. Finally, the proponent of this paper will present the advantages and disadvantages of diversifying workforce according to age or through generational diversity.
Pros: Generational Diversity
Enumerating the different generations that participate in the American workforce allows for a deeper understanding of their specific attributes. The manual on the Generational Differences in the Workforce written by Tolbize (2008) presented not only the characteristics of each generation but it also presented the forces that shaped and influence each of the respected group. Carefully analyzing the situation where the generation grew up in allowed for people to understand why certain behaviors and attitudes are evident with each of the group. For example, for the traditional or the silent generation it was the political predominance that shaped this generation to be mindful of authority. As result, this generation acknowledge the importance of hierarchy and chain of command. In the same way, the baby boomers were shaped by political and social turmoil which made the generation very shy of bestowing their trust. Considering that this period was marked by association, the baby boomers or individuals born to this group gravitates on social connections, teamwork and collaboration. It is also by artistic expression and have high regards for personal growth and personal gratification.
As raised by many researchers, it is believed that among the diversification models adapted by organizations, this particular model is not so much prone to falling into the ills of tokenism in such that people are accepted into the organization not by virtue of their age but by their qualification. Although it might not be a conscious effort for call centers and business process outsourcing, it is one of the industry that has a highly diversified workforce in terms of age distribution. Such organizations overlook the age criteria perhaps because there is less contact with the customers. Diversifying workforce by age allows the organization to bring in the necessary qualities possessed by individuals from each of the four generation into their job.
Armed with the information on qualities, behaviors and attitude, organizations will know who to assign people from the workforce to areas where they will be most useful and more productive. For example, jobs that require meticulous understand of information must necessarily be assigned to the traditional generation. They are also in the best position to handle jobs that requires a systematic approach simply based on the argument that those born into this generation are detailed-oriented, have high regards for following protocols and recognizes the importance of chain of command.
Cons: Generational Diversity
There are always two sides of the coin. While there are identified advantages of adapting generational diversity in the workforce, there are also some disadvantages. Subconsciously, the labelling associated with each of the four generation can encourage stereotyping. Organizations might be fixated on identifying characteristics and attributes only to a specific group. It could typecast employees as being less organize, less optimistic or more defiant than the rest. For example, organizations might refuse to hire people from Generation X because they are believed to be very verbal or vocal about their rights and their opinions.
The goals of diversity in the workforce is to allow people to the equal opportunity in employment. In the same manner, it hopes to erase discrimination of employees based on a particular factor like gender, color, religion or race. Nevertheless, typecasting and stereotyping based on attitudes and attributes associated with each of the four generation is also a manifestation of discrimination. Therefore, this would refute the goal and objection of diversifying the workforce to facilitate for equal opportunity.
It is the conclusion of this study that organizations can actually benefit from diversifying their workforce base on age. The benefit of doing such is allowing the organization to better position employees on areas where they will more likely be efficient and productive. However, it should also be remembered that while it will significantly help to identify employees based on certain qualities that are associated with their age it also fosters discrimination and stereotype which is not actually productive and helpful to the organization.
The proponent of this study hereby recommends that organizations take into consideration profiling their employees according to their age. This will significantly help organizations in understanding the behavior and the motivations of their employees because of the environment that shaped them while they were growing up. However, it would also help that while organizations profile their employees according to age they should also remember that to account for other variables that might affect the result of classifying employees based on their age and based on the associated attributes of the employees.
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