Two Scenarios on Diversity and Generations

Nov 13, 2008
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

I thought that this week I would try something a bit different to spark a conversation and perhaps get some deeper understanding of issues we are all dealing with or probably will be soon.

Over the past almost two weeks I have been in Europe leading workshops, working with a few clients, and presenting to recruiters from Germany, France, the U.K., and The Netherlands. We all face the same issues. Some of these are generational differences, an aging workforce, lack of loyalty, difficulty to engage and attract new college graduates, the economic recession, and growing talent needs in some areas with meltdowns in others.

I picked out one challenging area: that of how to deal with diversity and the generations.

In a workshop I held a couple of days ago, one of the scenarios we grappled with was whether diversity is growing or lessening and the role generational differences play. I presented them with the following scenarios and asked them to discuss (argue?) and challenge each other on which of these is closer to their experience and belief.

I asked them to get data to support their positions and look at the generational issues on a macro scale as well as on a local or personal level. For example, it is a fact that there are more countries in the world than ever. Large unions, such as the Soviet Union, have broken into smaller countries and others have fractured within themselves. We also know that people are more mobile than ever and that many young people have traveled to, lived in, and worked in many countries.

Read the two views expressed below and then let us know what you think. This might be a great discussion for your weekly staffing meeting or for an offsite.

Your opinions will shed light and provide examples that will help us all decide which of these is most likely to be the reality. Or you may decide that the reality is some sort of fusion of the two or even something entirely different.

What do you think? What are implications for recruiting and development? Will recruiting these younger people be a significant challenge or just the same as usual? How will our views of diversity evolve?

View One: Gen Y and the generation following, often called Gen M for mobile, don’t carry the same baggage about gender, ethnicity, and other surface differences between people. They grew up with more awareness about different learning and communication styles and many of them are of mixed heritage/cultures themselves. Over the next few years, we will chuckle at the conflicts and issues that challenged us in the Twentieth Century. We will overlook physical differences, cultural and language differences, and embrace each other’s strengths. We have elected a President who is half white and half black. He bridges divides and unites us in the process. This will be the direction of the world.

View Two: While the “surface” diversity of sex, color, and ethnicity decrease, new differences emerge. Religious and cultural differences are growing every day and some parts of the world are polarizing. Rather than less diversity, we are discovering more and more areas of difference and are latching onto those differences to discriminate in many ways. Shiites, Sunis, and Kurds cannot find common ground. Religious sects are proliferating. Rather than become one, we are becoming ever more fragmented. We have learned how to hide our feelings, but express them in nuanced ways. Recruiting diverse people will be very hard and there may be conflicts that we haven’t anticipated. The world is more fragmented than ever.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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