Diversity in the Workplace
I have been discussing in this series, the workplace today is multi-generational. We are diverse in a variety of ways:
How We Communicate
Think about it. If you are 65 years of age, you grew up doing the following:
- Learned to write cursive.
- Created an outline before you would write a paper
- Typed that paper on a typewriter
- Used a phone to call home, and it was probably a pay phone
- When you called long distance on the phone, you were aware of the time
If you are 21 years of age:
- You may not be able to read cursive much less write it
- Outline? What is an outline? You start writing and rearrange as you go along
- Everything you write is entered electronically
- What is a pay phone?
- What is long distance calling?
These are the two extremes, but these changes have occurred in the last 10-15 years. For example, when I traveled in 2001 on business I had:
- A laptop computer with an analog modem to download my e-mail
- A cell phone with roaming charges
- A long distance calling card
How We Learn
Again think about it. If you are 65 years of age you grew up:
- In a school where you listened to a teacher instruct
- You did higher level math on a slide rule
- You did most projects on your own
- The library was the place to do all of your research
- You memorized a lot of the information to be able to do well on a test
In contrast, if you are 21 years of age you grew up:
- Learning in groups
- Taking online courses
- Using a calculator from the time you entered school
- Doing research on the Internet
- Memorization?? Why memorize information when it is readily available on your smartphone?
Again, these are the two extremes, but much of the diversity in the way we learn and acquire information has occurred in the last 15 years!
Group and Family Dynamics
Again, think about it. If you are 65 years of age you grew up:
- To be a strong individual
- If you are a man, to be the primary income provider
- If you are a woman, you were expected to marry and raise a family
- You were never to share personal information like how much you were making
- To go to work for a company that would take care of you
In contrast, if you are 21 years of age you who grew up:
- To be a good team player
- If you are man, you hope to find a partner who can contribute equally
- If you are a woman, you can reach for the heavens when it comes to a career
- Everything is available on the Internet. You want to know what I make? Sure…
- To work for yourself doing something that will have a positive impact
Again, these are the extremes, but there is tremendous diversity in how we function in groups.
If you are 65 years of age, when you entered the workplace in the mid 1960s, it was probably pretty segregated.
I was talking to a client the other day who works for a major technology company in Silicon Valley. He said that his department was made up of employees where everyone was foreign born. Everything from Russia, Hungary, Cuba, China, India… Most had been in this country for many years, and most were now citizens. If you were 21 years of age and entered the workplace today, what would be your expectations?
How would this kind of diversity affect how you approached your career?
Even though we have labeled each generation, it was to discuss the differences that exist today in the workplace. The key to making such a diverse workplace functional is to discuss our many differences.
This is the end of the series. If you have not read any of the preceding posts, now is good time to catch up–> Multi-Generational Workplace Series.
In the next couple of months, look for a white paper on the Multi-Generational Workplace.