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Managing a multi-generational workforce (2010)

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Providing managers with an understanding of diversity, drawing on academic research from sociology, organisational behaviour and HR management.

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Published October 2010. Written by Dr. Amanda Shantz, Kingston Business School, Kingston University.

This review provides managers with an understanding of diversity within generational cohorts. In doing so, it draws on academic research from the fields of sociology, organisational behaviour and human resource management.

This report begins with a description of generational cohorts and how they are studied in an academic context. Today’s workforce can be roughly segmented into four broad generations:

Traditionalists (born between 1922 and 1945)
– Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1965)
– Generation X (born between 1967 and 1976)
– Generation Y (born between 1977 and 1999)

This report also reviews a number of issues that may arise due to generational differences within a workforce. Using Path-Goal theory as an organising framework, challenges associated with managing different generations are summarised. Second, the different approaches to the work-family interface by generational cohort are discussed. Third, issues related to job security within the framework of the psychological contract are related to different generations. Fourth, variants in communication style and preference for feedback and social interaction at work are summarised. A caveat describes the pitfalls of stereotyping based on generational cohort.


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