Generational Diversity

This month’s guest blogger is Consult P3 faculty member, Sherri Elliott-Yeary.  Sherri is known as the “Generational Guru” because she has a passion for sharing her vast knowledge on generational differences. She is an author, columnist, blogger and sought-after-expert on hiring and workplace trends. Sherri is the CEO of Optimance Workforce Strategies, a leading human resource consulting firm and the founder of Gen InsYght, a multi-generational training company. You can reach Sherri at: Office: 972-231-4394 Email: Website: and

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

(Barack Obama)


This is a question I have been asked more times than I care to remember. I like to use the metaphor of an iceberg because there are things that you can easily see on the surface of the water while it also disappears under the waterline. If you think of humans as icebergs there are some things that we can see and some we can’t. We can physically see aspects of a person i.e. their appearance, age (or we can at least have a guess of their age), gender, body language, ethnicity and culture, all just by appearance and observing behavior. We need to think about what lies below the ‘water line’, this involves considering those factors that aren’t highly visible.

Below the waterline are values, perspectives, education, families, hobbies, interests etc. all the traits that we cannot see with the naked eye. We can assign individuals to their generational groups by making an educated guess based on what we can physically see by employing our perceptions, stereotyping, our values, beliefs etc.

Generational diversity is merely one variable of diversity. The groups differ in their fundamental approach to work issues; they have different lifestyles and social values, all of which have a significant impact in the workplace. Each generation views the world through their own generational experiences or as I call it the “generational lens”; and it is these factors that shape the core values of a generation.

Our worldviews are based on our experiences and are often shared with our cohort; we look at the world through our generational lenses. Insight to understanding differences in generational experiences and influences helps us to better understand the different values, attitudes and work ethics amongst other things.

This is the first time in history where four generations are in the workplace simultaneously. We need to know how to connect with other generations in order to connect with not only our colleagues but also our customer base. Keep in mind that today’s customer base now has the added dimension of being a global customer base. The ability to attract and retain talent across generations is now an essential component to successful organizations, more so than ever before. Appreciation and greater understanding of the generational diversity that exists within our society and workplaces will enable us to leverage on the differences, giving individuals and organizations greater competitive advantages. Diverse teams create better solutions if well managed.