Generational diversity has assumed greater significance in the last few years with millennials and Facebook enthusiasts joining the workforce.

Diversity in a workplace assumes many dimensions; multiple generations, sexual orientations, gender diversity and differently-abled persons. Organisations today feel the need for both hiring and retaining a diverse workforce.Generational diversity has assumed greater significance in the last few years with millennials and Facebook enthusiasts joining the workforce.

Corporate India is, therefore, an interesting mix of four very diverse generations comprising of baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Z.

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, remain in the workplace, albeit close to retirement. Generation X are those born between 1965 to 1976 while millennials came between 1977 and 1990. The youngest part of the Indian workforce is Generation Z, its members coming to the face of this earth, post-1991.

Each generation differs in its world view, opinions, belief, skill, attitude, and behaviour and what they want out of life. This impacts their career choices, aspirations, ways of working and communication leading to significant implication for workplaces.

If not managed with maturity and sensitivity, there can be conflict, mistrust and breakdown of communication, leading to loss of productivity and organisational performance.

It is no surprise that the oldest working generation is also the least comfortable in using technology. Baby boomers grew up using phones, sent letters by post, and used typewriters instead of laptops.

Generation X is familiar with technology, but it’s an acquired skill. Generation Y and Z have grown up using technology and are accustomed to smartphones, tablets and laptops, leveraging technology to work faster, and making the world smaller.

Today, the work environment is becoming more and more technology- dependent, with expectations of faster decision making. Data and analytics have taken over.

Members of different generations have different working styles. Baby boomers work best when they are part of a team and value face to face meetings. They derive self-worth from their work. Stability and loyalty are important values.

Those who belong to Generation X are resilient and adaptable. They were the first generation whose mothers were likely to work. They have adapted to technology, are risk-averse, career-oriented and focus on long-term security and wealth creation.

Generation Y enjoys challenges, are open to risks and venture into unchartered territory. Spoilt for choices, this generation has taken to entrepreneurship like fish to water, adopting non-traditional careers.

They are assertive and do not hesitate in asking for their due. They also respect accomplishments over authority and hierarchy. They like to set and achieve their own goals and seek value for self.

Members of Generation Z, the newest entrants in the working world, are yet to make their presence felt strongly. Again, very familiar and comfortable with technology, they are inquisitive, want opportunities to learn, grow and contribute. They also expect and demand feedback and are impatient when things do not move at their pace. They are skilled in collaboration and great at multitasking.

Given that the four generations differ in their core values, conflict, when they work together, is inevitable.

Researchers point to some interesting trends. Baby boomers and generation X feel that millennials and Facebookers do not value hard work and commitment, that they have it easy and do not demonstrate work-ethic.

Millennials and Facebookers, on the other hand, believe that baby boomers and Generation X are slow in decision making and too formal. This conflict is increasingly challenging status quo and driving an evolution in the culture.

It is important to ensure that organisations leverage the strengths without letting it evolve into a conflict. The starting point is to acknowledge and drive awareness of the issue, its opportunities and risks. Encourage awareness sessions around diversity, including generational diversity, and help individuals acknowledge and address their biases.

These can have elements of sensitisation, which bring differences out in the open. There are other routes like making buddies, incorporating feedback tools like STAR to drive better quality of conversations.

Organisations have the opportunity to leverage diverse perspectives and skill sets that the four generations bring. The opportunity is to proactively evolve and forge a culture that works for them in the coming years. What is needed is a proactive step to harness the change.

Author is the founder and managing partner, Marching Sheep