Leading Generational Diversity

Bad diversity training is absolutely the worst. Not that any bad training is something to look forward to, but bad diversity training almost invariably produces unintended consequences that are highly undesirable. With that as a premise, there are three points we would like you to consider:

  1. “Bad Diversity Training” can be defined as awareness training that emphasizes that which is different at the expense of that which is held in common. It doesn’t do anybody any good to have a workshop or an online module that draws attention to “unique characteristics,” without circling back and making a concerted effort to point out the power of that uniqueness, and how it can/should be integrated or incorporated into the strength of what already exists.
  2. The definition of “diversity training” has been expanded well beyond the challenges presented by ethnicity and gender to include (at a minimum) the challenges presented by generational identity. Despite all we have been hearing about it lately (i.e., “Millennial This” closely followed by “Millennial That”) generational training is nothing new. Among others, Dr. Morris Massey has been addressing this topic since the 1970’s (What You Are is a Product of Where You Were When!!)
  3. For all intent and purposes “diversity training” is synonymous with “leadership training.” By definition leaders are the people that get diverse followers on the same page moving forward. This invariably involves acknowledging and appreciating that which is different, while leveraging the power of that diverse talent to achieve something worth achieving.

So, consider the following graphic in this context:

  • “Diversity” includes the unique experiences that have shaped the world views of multiple generations (i.e., maybe there really are some very good reasons that dad is so weird)
  • Leadership is a function of uniting diverse resources in pursuit of a common objective

The distributions identified reflect the population as a whole, and are the product of community surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. We think it’s also safe to say that these percentages are present in similar form in most work settings (i.e., think about the laws of large numbers and the really big area under the normal distribution curve).



  • Value Programming – World War II; The Great Depression
  • Influences – Joe DiMaggio; John Wayne; Betty Crocker
  • Cyber Literacy – “In the room” when the first fax made its way through the fax machine (“it was like magic”)


  • Value Programming – Watergate; Civil & Women’s Rights; Assassinations (J.F.K. & M.L.K.); Vietnam
  • Influences – The Beatles; Beaver Cleaver; Rosa Parks; Gloria Steinem;  John Belushi; Captain Kirk
  • Cyber Literacy – Widely variant


  • Value programming – MTV; AIDS; Video Games; The Fall of the Berlin Wall; The Gulf War
  • Influences – Bill Clinton; Beavis & Butthead; Michael Jordan; O.J. Simpson; Bill Gates; Steve Jobs; Ted Bundy
  • Cyber Literacy – Very Strong


  • Value Programming – Oklahoma City Bombing; Columbine; 9/11; The Election of Barack Obama; Hurricane Katrina
  • Influences – Barney; Mark McGuire & Sammy Sosa; The Backstreet Boys; Dawson’s Creek; Full House; Justin Timberlake
  • Cyber Literacy – Invented Facebook & Google


  • Value Programming – Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan; Impending response to use of chemical weapons in Syria; more to come!!
  • Influences – Lady Gaga; Justin Bieber; Hannah Montana; Lebron James
  • Cyber Literacy – Hyper Connectivity

So where is all this headed and why all the fuss about Millennials? Consider the projections below while considering the notion that 2020 isn’t really all that far away. By 2015 Millennials will constitute roughly 47% of the workforce. By 2020 that number will be north of 55%.


Looking ahead, the challenges brought to the forefront by “leading generational diversity” are self-evident (we suppose we could throw in the terms “intimidating” or “daunting” as well).  Regardless, it provides a “call to action” for us all. And we would respectfully suggest that call to action has far less to do with sitting through a training program highlighting the nuances of generational differences than it does with implementing one or two of the suggestions identified below in our Application Challenge.


Consider the following statements taken from recent research reports on The Millennial Generation:

  • Millennials are technologically savvy, innovative and confident
  • Culture and environment really matter to Millennials
  • Millennials respond well to recognition and appreciation

With the following objectives in mind, implement one or two of the suggestions provided below:

  1. “Effectively integrate Millennials into the mainstream of your organization”
  2. “Improve the overall depth and strength of your multi-generational work group or team”

Millennials are technologically savvy, innovative and confident

  • Find a way to allow them to leverage their social media skills to enhance your employment brand
  • Make a point to find new ways to provide instantaneous performance feedback (i.e., don’t wait for annual or semi-annual performance appraisals)
  • Give them challenging work with a built-in learning component
  • Let them “push the edge of the envelope” with tasks you know they can complete (i.e., how can we do this better; faster; different?)
  • Consciously make use of their innate confidence by allowing them to contribute in meaningful ways from day one (i.e., don’t make them “put in their time” before you listen to what they have to say)

Culture and environment really matter to Millennials

  • Create and sustain a fun, progressive culture that aligns your business brand with your future employment brand
  • Employ a collaborative work process with an emphasis on achieving measurable results
  • Candidly discuss/negotiate the dynamics of “work life balance” on an ongoing basis
  • Recognize and openly discuss security concerns (i.e., reassuring any employee that his/her job is safe is never a bad idea)

Millennials respond well to recognition and appreciation

  • Showcase opportunities for growth and development
    • Tuition reimbursement
    • Professional dues reimbursement
    • Formal training classes (face-to-face and e-learning)
  • Create development plans to show Millennials how they can enhance their skills and where they might go in the organization
  • Create a reverse mentoring program where they teach other generations about the use of technology, such as social media