Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

When Gens X, Y and Z meet in office

The audacity of millennials to dream big and take risks is beautifully coupled with the perseverance of veterans

When we hear the term “diversity", the things that come to mind are gender diversity, followed by region and then, probably, race or ethnicity.

Generational diversity is an often overlooked component of the ambit. When a workplace prides itself on being an equal opportunity employer, how many of us consider the spectrum of age and experience in the picture? Well, not enough of us.

Among game-changing unicorns and rapidly expanding startups, you will find young people in their first leadership roles, working with or being managers of seasoned professionals who have a couple of decades of industry expertize under their belt. With millennials making up almost 35% of the global workforce, this is only but an eventuality, an optimistic one at that.

In an emerging industry and a young organization like ours, one that is fairly flat, we are exploring ways in which generational diversity plays out between peer groups and reporting relationships.

As we matured, we felt the need to bring in experienced members of the industry, who brought in their insights and far-reaching network to begin with, along with discipline, a well-honed intuition, and much needed structure to the magic of our chaos. This acts as a balancing force to the agility, pace and raw ambition of the younger team members. What is common though, is how ambiguity and working with the unpredictable, evokes a similar response across generations—throws us off in pretty much the same way.

This brings forth a mix of perspectives as each generation has a lens of their own influences, experiences, and values, thus building an organization culture that truly embraces diversity.

None of us is as smart as all of us

The average age at Ather is 28 years. To give a glimpse into the demographic of the leadership team: the team is led by three leaders who are 30 years old and the other half of the team has 25-plus years of experience in each of their respective careers.

Within this group, a range of interesting dynamics play out. Some layered, others nuanced. The equation of reverse mentoring has brought a unique value to our collective decision-making. As a team, we get together to discuss serious organization matters but also know how to lighten up and laugh at ourselves.

What has been a study in human behaviour and group dynamics, leading to the subject of diversity, is to understand and experience how each of these generations respond to ownership, failure, how they communicate, approach quick fixes and technology changes. The overarching diversity in thought becomes a driving force in innovation. It also creates a level playing field, where we are open to sparring and questioning, irrespective of the age or title, not from a lens of doubting competence but to drill down the why, to seek information and to have conviction in the reason.

This manifests in decision making, people policies, performance management and a communication framework that responds to a more diverse workforce. On the external front too, multigenerational teams have a range of perspectives on the product and the customer, resulting in a treasure trove of insights and ideas.

Each generational group has its own set of expectations, behaviours and idiosyncrasies. How have we leveraged this? And what makes us so accepting of it?

Working with such generational dynamics is only inevitable given the demographic of today’s workforce. The audacity of the millennials to dream big and take risks is beautifully coupled with the perseverance of the veterans to plough through and be resilient in the face of setbacks.

Does generational diversity translate to a culture of success? While it’s too early to put labels on elements of our culture, right now it’s about how we are working with this diversity. It is a powerful equation—the relentless energy of the young and the sagacious wisdom of the experienced. There’s no denying that it comes with its own share of challenges, from negative stereotyping, interpretation of culture and behaviours, to the baggage of prejudices, different work ethic and communication styles. How we build cohesion through the strengths of each group is something we are learning with each passing day.

Sunitha Lal is the chief human resources officer at Ather Energy.Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com

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