There are now five or more generations in the workplace, ranging from the silent generation – those born between 1928 and 1945; to baby boomers; Generation X; millennials or Generation Y; and the newest cohort, Generation Z, born since 1997.
Each generation brings its own distinct employee expectations around topics ranging from reskilling in the age of automation; holistic employee wellness programs; connecting work to social impact and purpose and flexible work arrangements. There are also clear distinctions when it comes to leveraging social media within and outside the workplace; crystalizing what it means to ‘bring your full self to work,’ and myriad other issues that will impact future diversity and inclusion training.
Meanwhile, the pandemic and pervasive remote working have only served to further highlight generational differences. Young recruits were often navigating work-from-home in a house share environment, for example, while older team members may have been less comfortable operating the requisite technology.
It is important, therefore, that DE&I initiatives are tailored to the full spectrum of generational differences. That starts with an appreciation of the benefit that age diversity brings. “Older colleagues bring a wealth of experience, while more junior team members bring a fresh perspective,” says Partners Group’s Esther Peiner.
Peiner adds that it is also critical to think about motivation when considering a multi-generational workforce. “I don’t just mean compensation. People’s motivations have changed over time and you need to incorporate that into your culture,” she explains. “When I started out in the industry, what made me most proud was to be trusted with the ownership of a financial model.
“What the underlying business did was secondary to me. If I look at graduates entering the industry today, the underlying purpose of the business and how it impacts wider society really drives people. There has been a fascinating shift in underlying motivation.”
It is also important to consider the different challenges that employees face at different stages of their lives and to provide the necessary support to enable them to flourish.
“When I think about a multi-generational workplace, I think about where people are in their lives,” says Instar’s Sarah Borg-Oliver. “We address that by creating a benefits program that allows employees to support their families, whether that is with 24/7 virtual healthcare, because it can be hard to get a child to a doctor, or unlimited mental health benefits.”
KKR also believes that benefit packages are key, including everything from lactation support such as breast milk shipping during business travel to unlimited IVF and eldercare services.
Borg-Olivier believes that a mentorship scheme is critical, as well. “It allows individuals at different levels, working in different areas of the business, to exchange views and experiences.”
And, of course, it is important that mentorship programs do not re-enforce an existing lack of diversity, but rather foster interactions between people who are ostensibly different. “We need to start mentoring a diverse set of candidates at a much younger stage,” says Isela Bahena, a managing director focused on infrastructure private equity at Nuveen. “People tend to have a natural affinity with people who look like their younger selves. But if those at the top are only cultivating talent that looks like them, nothing is ever going to change.”
Meanwhile, Advent International has taken mentorship a step further with the Advent Sponsorship Programme – or ASPire – which pairs mid-to-senior deal-level females with partners, who then act as sponsors rather than just mentors. “This helps them gain visibility, experience and support for career advancement,” says the firm’s managing partner James Brocklebank.
Meanwhile, increasingly a form of reverse mentorship is emerging, where younger employees share wisdom with senior executives right up to the CEO.
Ardian, meanwhile, has established a millennial executive committee, which brings together a group of employees under the age of 35 from across the company to develop ideas in collaboration with the firm’s various departments, in recognition of the value that age diversity can bring.