25 January 2017

Generational differences at the workplace dissected in new e-book series

Source: Universum. Cover for Brave New Workplace.
Source: Universum. Cover for Brave New Workplace.
The INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute has released Brave New Workplace, the first of three new Generations Series e-books in collaboration with employer branding specialist Universum, Singapore-based think tank The HEAD Foundation and MIT Leadership Centre.

As organisations seek to optimise the work environment and policies for multigenerational workforces, generational differences may play a significant part - or they may not. Focusing on the behaviours and attitudes of Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z, Brave New Workplace explores how these three generations are reshaping the nature of work and workplace culture.

Growing up digital, say some, has so influenced younger generations that it has given them a permanently different outlook than their older peers. Gen X says Gen Y cling to childhood even as adults. Millennials (Gen Y) characterise their Gen X peers as nihilistic and disdainful. Neither has fully formed their opinions about Gen Z, who are on the cusp of entering the workforce.

“Regardless of opinion about the members of this age group, the inclusion of Gen Z in to the labour market will initiate a new era in workplace culture; their presence will disrupt the nature of work as we know it today and therefore understanding the new multigenerational workforce must not be treated as an afterthought,” said Universum CEO, Petter Nylander. He continued “Gen Z are set to account for around 20% of the adult workforce by 2020, knowing how to harmonise and steer a workplace that includes these three generations should be a top priority for any employer.”

The research questions these generalisations. Are younger generations truly so different? Or is it possible that as they age and gain experience at work, they begin to behave a lot like their older peers? Based on a survey of over 18,000 students and professionals from 19 countries – spanning Gen Xers who’ve been in the workplace for two decades to Gen Z students – Brave New Workplace can now share data about preferred work styles, leadership qualities, and hopes and fears about future careers.

“Today’s workplace is an interesting assortment of multigenerational values, approaches to technology, leadership styles and workplace preferences. Through this global study spanning the three generations, we seek to understand how each group can best be motivated, managed, led and encouraged to lead, for optimal results,” said Henrik Bresman, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour; Academic Director, INSEAD Global Leadership Centre; Senior Advisor, The HEAD Foundation. 

“This study shows that as far as the need to identify with a company’s culture and values, there is no perceptible difference between the three generations. On the other hand, in terms of whether they have an optimistic or pessimistic outlook towards their work, there is a clear generational divide.”

Vinika Rao, Executive Director of INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute, added, “One dimension that demonstrates both a clear generational divide as well as a geographical one is the aspect of challenges that women face at work. Organisations therefore need to avoid overgeneralisations such as blanket initiatives targeting women. Managing a multigenerational, diverse workforce entails a careful study of how workplace measures are perceived by different employees.” 


Download the Brave New Workplace e-book

Two more e-books are in the pipeline. Focusing on the topics of technology and leadership, these eBooks will be released in the coming months and include research that not only offers insights about the preferences and values of individual generations, but also point to how employers can integrate and manage a multigenerational workforce