Multi-Generational diversity at the workplace - An India Perspective

Multi-Generational diversity at the workplace - An India Perspective

However, organisations of the future need to leverage the strengths of multiple generations within their workforce in a way that leads to collaboration, increased knowledge sharing which results in creative solutions and building networks that foster knowledge sharing and value creation for both, individuals and the organisation.

While existing literature in the Indian cultural context is diverse and fragmented, there is no single study which has focussed on generations in the Indian milieu. SHRM India is doing a research project focused on “Multi-generational Diversity in the workplace” in collaboration with Prof Vasanthi Srinivasan from IIM-Bangalore which will fill a long standing gap in this research area.

Work values
It is well established that differences in skill sets, work values, attitudes and overall approach to life exist across generations. These differences can have both, a positive and negative impact on organisations.

Increased creativity, innovation, openness to change, stimulation for alternate thinking, cross pollination of ideas and better collaboration due to interdependency are some of the strengths that can be leveraged for competitive advantage in terms of business outcomes. On the other hand, conflicts, delayed decision making, dissipation of energy, chaos and dysfunction are also likely to increase due to generational diversity.

These could result in counterproductive outcomes such as increased attrition of high potential talent, reduced engagement and workplace stress. It is this context that gives rise to the need to understand multi-generational diversity from the perspectives of the employee, the team and the organisation.

Western countries, including UK, USA and Canada, have already focused research efforts on studying multi-generational diversity in organisations. They have categorised generations using a widely accepted practitioner classification based on birth years related to significant events in history in the western context. The categories so defined are: Veterans, Baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y. While this grouping makes sense in the Western context, the application of the same terminology and time frame in the Indian context needs to be questioned.

According to the Conference Board Global Economic Outlook, India, with a current Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 7.6 and a projected GDP growth of 8.6 by 2020, will encounter a host of socio-economic and cultural changes in the workplace.

The implications of India’s rapid economic growth trajectory include the demand for talent continuing to outstrip the supply.

This will result in a disproportionate number of young people entering the workforce much earlier than their counterparts in other parts of the world.

India’s unique cultural diversity and confluence of multiple forces, including liberalisation, identity politics, religious tension and threats to national security, have a contextual effect on the Indian workforce.

Each individual brings deeply rooted cultural experiences based on state or location, caste, religion, beliefs, norms, ethics, behaviour and attitudes to the workplace. These factors need to be analysed to understand the differences in work values among Indian generations.

We, at SHRM India, believe that this world view of the young generation will impact its relationships with other generations at the workplace. Continuing generational values pertaining to family are likely to create greater spaces for collaboration across generations in organisations that are strongly hierarchical. 

While technology usage and proficiency is a huge differentiator among the cohorts in the US, exploring whether this holds true for Indian cohorts is an area that needs to be examined. Current research has not delved into understanding the communication, conflict resolution and collaborative processes that exist either in social spaces or in the organisational context.

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