Generational diversity is a net positive for companies. But even though the various generations of workers at your company respect each other's skills, there's drama bubbling beneath the surface.

Whether you know it or not, your employees probably think you have a soft spot for the millennials in their midst. Left unchecked, perceptions of favoritism create a toxic work environment, making it difficult to attract and retain the most talented workers.

As a growth-minded employer, you need to understand generational perceptions and work to create a company culture grounded in the equal treatment of all employees.

Perceptions of millennial bias in the workplace

In a recent Addison Group study of 1,000 workers representing multiple generations (Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, baby boomers), 90% of employees reported satisfaction with the diversity of age ranges in their workplaces, and 86% said colleagues within their age group garner respect.

However, the study also found that 35% of employees feel their companies' cultures and processes favor one generation over others. Specifically, 45% of respondents believe their employers are biased toward -- you guessed it -- millennials. 

To be fair, the millennial generation continues to gain influence as they age into the largest working generation. In some cases, this influence translates into false assumptions that new initiatives are primarily designed to appease millennial workers.

It doesn't matter whether it's grounded in reality or not. A perceived millennial bias exists, at least among some of your employees. And it's on company leaders to counter those perceptions by creating an inclusive and equitable work environment -- the kind of environment where cream-of-the-crop candidates actually want to work.

How to create a culture of generational inclusivity

Tapping into the benefits of generational diversity requires you to establish and promote a culture of inclusivity in your organization. Generationally inclusive cultures eschew stereotypes (e.g., the notion that millennials are automatically better equipped to make technology decisions) and embrace a work environment that recognizes every employee's unique skills and needs.

I spoke with Steve Wolfe, EVP of Operations at Addison Group, to discuss how companies can attract the best candidates across all generations and fast-track generational inclusivity in their organization. The three tips we discussed are below:

1. Lead by example.

Inclusive company cultures are birthed from the top of the corporate pyramid. Leadership teams set the tone for their companies and provide cues about the value of diversity in the workplace. Diversity initiatives based on gender, race and sexual orientation are already entrenched in your company culture. Now it's time to add generational diversity to the mix and evangelize the importance of all generations in your company's success.

2. Acknowledge biases.

If employees indicate a perceived bias toward millennials or other generations, there may be a seed of truth to their insights. Rather than deflecting, recognize and acknowledge bias where it exists. Then, go a step further and suggest actionable ways the company will work to eliminate any traces of generational bias, such as creating hiring criteria, promoting inclusive meeting practices and encouraging open dialogue.

3. Leverage each generation's strength to create a well-rounded team.

Every generation brings something unique to the workplace. Gen Z and millennials bring their superb tech skills, boomers bring their leadership and Gen X brings their work ethic. Employers should take advantage of each generation's strongest trait and form groups accordingly, with at least one person from each generation having a role. 

The war on talent is fierce. There are more jobs than people to fill them and with the ball in job seekers' courts, employers need to ensure their workplaces are attractive to potential candidates and current employees. And increasingly, the battle to field the most talented workforce starts with an inclusive company culture that recognizes and values the needs of all employees -- regardless of their generational labels.

Published on: Nov 11, 2019
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