Bridging the Generation Gap- A Focus on the Multigenerational Workforce 

Danna Khattab, Abdulrahman Albukhari, Mustafa Kidawi, Maram Ejaimi, SPE-KSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee 

Multigenerational human factors substantially affect the cultural environment of organizations within the workplace. As the workforce environments shift towards a multigenerational space, organizations must be prepared to take advantage of the benefits and ensure the optimization of this diversity as a valuable asset. Additionally, multigenerational inclusion in corporations provides a healthy variance in work habits, expectations, and communication styles. Implementation of the age diversity strategy can be a solid bolster to achieving business goals; the collaboration of new innovative ideas with wisdom from long experiences brings increased productivity. Young employees can add value with their flexibility to rapidly developing technology and adaptability to the changes. Concurrently, more mature employees can provide knowledge from their experience that can guide the decision-making processes.

 Significant benefits of including a range of ages in the staff can be noticed in various areas while performing workplace duties such as:

  •     Multiple perspectives; different generations can have distinctive ways of viewing job responsibilities, leading to a broader range of abilities that support innovation.
  •     Problem-solving expertise; teams with age diversity can offer a wider variety of ways to address problems.
  •     Learning and mentoring opportunities; reverse/cross-generational mentoring can be applied to provide a mutually beneficial mentoring environment.
  •     Knowledge retention; focusing more on the in-house promotion of the young talent and reducing recruitment from outside ensures that the knowledge passes on within the company through the generations.
  • Unique and meaningful relationships with coworkers; various age groups within the corporation mirror a family structure that offers potential for personal connections with those outside one’s generation. 

Along with the apparent benefits, corporations will face the challenges of managing a multigenerational workforce. There are four different generations within working ages: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. With each generation raised in different periods, managers must be aware of the characteristics of the various workspace generations and act accordingly. As a byproduct of being born in different eras, each generation was exposed to unique circumstances shaping their outlook. For example, an employee born between 1946-1964 (baby boomer) will likely be focused on financial stability/retirement and has a live-to-work mentality. On the other hand, an employee born between 1980-1995 (millennial) will focus on career growth and integrating a work-life balance. Accordingly, conflict is unfortunately bound to arise due to the differences in values. Thus, proper communication is the key to solving conflict through an open, honest, and transparent environment where people feel included and respected. In addition, employees should be discouraged from taking firm stands against either view in a conflict as a compromise can be better reached when each party is willing to see the value of how others feel.

However, these defining generational characteristics might not be possessed by all its members as everyone is unique. Therefore, employees with a similar generational background should be perceived as individuals rather than entire demographic groups. Ergo, the best strategies for managing a multigenerational workforce match those used for overseeing people with additional characteristics.

The three main strategies to managing people are: identifying the ideal management style, using specialized coaching to help employees grow, and setting stretch goals. When these strategies are applied and personalized to individual employees, the corporation can expect significant enhancements in performance. Overall, identifying the different perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors will assist managers in communicating better with their employees. 

Multigenerational workforces are not limited to specific regions and are present worldwide, including Saudi Arabia. This is best exemplified by a 2020 Saudi Arabian census which shows that the Saudi population has prevalent diversity in terms of the distribution of generations. The Census Bureau outlines the makeup of each demographic, as seen in Figure 1. 

Figure 1 2020 Saudi Arabian Census shows the population distribution in terms of age group and gender (Population Clock: World, 2020).  

The Census shows a disparity in the prevalence of the generations, and it can be assumed that such diversity is present in the workforce as well. Furthermore, the impact of generational diversity is anticipated to extend beyond the workplace; it is expected to affect public policies, governmental bodies, and local government workforces. Early recognition of generational diversity’s rise is crucial to ensuring that its potential benefits are optimized.

Additionally, addressing the shift in perceptions of public policy and organizational performance effectively is necessary to recognize the substantial influence of generational differences.

The term generation gap, three decades ago, was primarily used to describe conflicts between parents and children. Nowadays, these differences are affecting various aspects of an individual’s daily life. Thereby, generational gaps need to be bridged across divides, and managers must publicize the positive aspects of intergenerational relationships in the workplace. The best way to accomplish this would be to create an open communications channel; allowing the different generations to openly express and discuss their unique points of view will undoubtedly lead to a more positive understanding between them. 

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