1. maj 2021

Deep level diversity: generations

The age distribution in the workforce has been changing. With the advent of the youngest generation – the Zs – and the prospect of an ever-increasing retirement age for the oldest – Baby Boomers – there are now as many as four different generations within the job market.

The generation gaps within the labour market

The age distribution in the workforce has been changing. With the advent of the youngest generation – the Zs – and the prospect of an ever-increasing retirement age for the oldest – Baby Boomers – there are now as many as four different generations within the job market. This diverse composition places great demands on companies’ ability to recruit, manage and retain the best employees and greatest talent.

But who are these generations? What characterises their behaviour? How do the generations interact? You can learn more by reading this article, which is based on data from our latest statistical study, Deep level Diversity.


The youngest and oldest in the labour market: Two vulnerable groups

Both the youngest and the oldest in the labour market are undoubtedly vulnerable groups. Several studies have repeatedly pointed to age as one of the most common causes – if not the most common cause – of discrimination. Meanwhile – and quite paradoxically – the largest meta-analysis of different recruitment methods by Schmidt, Oh & Shaffer (2016) shows that age has absolutely no impact on job performance – and in fact, experience is not much different. This, of course, raises the question of why the youngest and oldest employees are so often overlooked, and whether or not companies are missing out on something.


Who are the generations?

As mentioned, the labour market currently spans four different generations:

Generation Born

Generation Z 1995–2010

Generation Y 1980–1994

Generation X 1965–1979

Baby Boomers 1945–1964


In the following, we present the results of a study comparing the youngest and oldest generation based on the personality and behavioural assessment, People Test Person (PTP). For reasons related to data and ethics, however, we have set a minimum age limit of 18 years for Generation Z, and an upper limit of 70 years for Baby Boomers, even though these generations actually span a wider range.


Generation Z

In particular, the youngest generation stands out in three competences. Firstly, they are Ambitious. Young people want to move up in the company and set many groundbreaking goals for the future – but not necessarily at the expense of others. They are also Cooperative, as they give high priority to the wishes and needs of others, and like to involve others in their decisions. Finally, the Zs are also Analytical, as they have a critical mindset, take a structured approach to work and have an eye for detail.


Baby Boomers

The oldest generation particularly stands out by being Accommodating. They are open, positive and trusting towards others and generally express themselves in very positive terms. In addition, they are Robust. Resistance and adversity tend to bounce off them, and when faced with it, they can move on quickly. Finally, the seniors are also quite Resolute, which means that they put the business first, work quickly and make independent decisions.


When generations collide

When considering the specific competences of the two generations, there is an immediate prospect of some clashes. In fact, Analytical and Accommodating are in contrast with Cooperative and Resolute. The critical sense of the Zs may be interpreted as unnecessary or excessive negativity by the accommodating Baby Boomers, while the dynamic nature of the older employees may be perceived as steamrolling or ruthless by the cooperative young people. However, if there is mutual understanding and respect for their differences, they can actually complement each other as well – especially with the seniors’ accommodating approach and the cooperative mindset of the youngest.


Go in-depth and avoid age discrimination

So how can you use this knowledge? Well first of all, the results highlight what personal competences the different generations possess – and what you risk missing out on if you disregard the youngest and oldest employees. If you are looking for employees with these specific competences then the chances of finding the perfect candidate will certainly not improve by doing so.

That said, of course, it does not mean that all older employees are accommodating or that young people cannot be robust. Therefore, you should always go into detail in your recruitment and examine how the candidates’ personal competences match the requirements of the position and the company culture – rather than choosing candidates based on their age. In fact, the relationship between age and job performance is so tenuous that this method has the same validity as drawing lots to choose between candidates. That is why it is important to avoid age discrimination, which you can do by e.g. anonymising the profiles when handing them over to the hiring manager, just as we recommended in the previous article on gender.

Next up: Inclusion

In the next article, we focus on inclusion and its importance in handling, managing and creating results through diversity. We also offer good advice on how you can use the comparison and team functions in Match to study the diversity and identify possible points of conflict in existing or future teams.

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