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Generational differences raise productivity at workplace, says study

Pradipta Mukherjee  |  Kolkata 

Issues such as communication style and monetary awards can be the source of marked difference in attitude among the three main workplace generations — Gen Y (aged 18-29), Gen X (aged 30-47), and baby boomers (aged 48-65).

However, a new survey by global workforce solutions leader Kelly Services reveals that these differences in attitude may improve productivity at one’s workplace.

Around 42 per cent of respondents to the survey said differences between Gen Y, Gen X and baby boomers could actually improve workplace productivity, while 24 per cent say they interfere with productivity, and 23 per cent say they make no difference. More than a third (42 per cent) of all employees say, they have experienced inter-generational conflict in the workplace, while almost three quarters admit to adapting the way they communicate with colleagues from a different generation in order to avoid problems.

The findings are part of the Kelly Global Workforce Index, which obtained the views of approximately 100,000 people in 34 countries covering North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

The survey finds that Gen Y is increasingly using instant messaging, yet all age groups overwhelmingly prefer face-to-face communication. In regard to rewards and bonuses, older workers prefer non-cash items such as time off work and training opportunities. While, Gen Y have a clear preference for monetary rewards.

Kelly Services Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, George Corona said, by addressing issues such as internal communications and compensation, it is possible to reap the benefits of managing a diverse group of people, and generate conditions that can help organisations to flourish.

Across the generational divide, there is recognition of the role of management in addressing critical issues. Baby boomers are overwhelmingly concerned at the failure of management to reward and manage their generation in a way that meets their needs and expectations.

Kelly Services also point out that baby boomers are the most tolerant of generational differences and the most positive about the productivity benefits.

Gen X are more likely to have experienced intergenerational conflict than either Gen Y or baby boomers, while Gen Y are more likely to go out of their way to adapt their communication style in dealing with colleagues from a different generation.

“It is important that issues such as management style, communication technique and remuneration structure are not allowed to become the focus for dissent among different generational groups.

By recognising the varying needs of people at different stages of their life and career, managers can address issues and actually enhance performance,” Corona concludes.

First Published: Sun, August 30 2009. 00:13 IST