Will Lack of Generational Intelligence Sink Your Organization?

USA Today reports that “The centenarian population has grown 66 percent over the past three decades, according to the 2010 Census data. There are 53,364 people in the USA who are 100 or older, compared with 32,194 in 1980.”

What does this trend mean for the workplace? As more and more people live to 100 and older, many of us are likely to stay in the workforce longer. The result is that by 2020, we’ll work side by side with co-workers who span five generations, as we wrote about in The 2020 Workplace.

Each generation brings its own view of the world to work, which creates both opportunities and threats. This requires generational intelligence, which is a new skill that is increasingly in demand. Is your organization ready?

In Future Workplace’s “Multiple Generations @ Work” recent research, we sought to identify key trends about each generation and their expectations about how they want to learn, work and communicate at work. Some findings that affect generational intelligence include:


    Baby boomers, those workers closest to retirement, are the most likely among current workers to be disengaged, professionally unsatisfied and frustrated at work. Having nearly a quarter of baby boomer employees disengaged and unhappy with opportunities for training and career progression is a recipe for productivity drag. It’s also an opportunity to find new ways to train and engage baby boomers.


    More than any generation, Generation Xers agree that they will work until age 70. Further, nearly one-fifth of Xers are somewhat or very dissatisfied with their career progression, sharing some of baby boomers’ unhappiness.


    Two-thirds of millennials agree: “My personal drive can be intimidating to other generations in the workplace.” This creates a degree of generational tension that needs to be understood and leveraged to prevent generational conflict that decreases engagement and productivity. In addition, a majority of millennials cite opportunities for career progression among the top three criteria that make an employer attractive. If millennials find themselves stuck in an organization without opportunities to grow and progress, this driven generation may quickly walk out the door.

Given all these trends and expectations, we believe that generational intelligence is a key skill that managers can learn for leading a generationally diverse workforce and employees can learn for successfully leveraging generational differences.

We have developed the “Building Generational IQ” workshop, based on our “Multiple Generations @ Work” research to help organizations understand the business value of generational intelligence, how to apply generational intelligence, and how to impact a generationally diverse workforce through talent management.

These are specific capabilities that any organization can deliberately develop, rather than simply hoping that its workers will figure out how to overcome generational differences about how they want to work, about what technologies they use, and about ways they want to communicate.

Here are three things you can do to better understand generations in your own workplace now:

  1. Create internal affinity groups that explore generational trends and their impact on your workforce across business units and functions.
  2. Involve millennial workers in strategic planning for how to recruit, develop and retain young talent in the next 10-20 years at your organization.
  3. Poll your employees about how, where and when they want to work to better understand their preferences for work space, device choice, flexibility, communication methods and related topics. Or add a generational filter to your annual employee satisfaction survey to be able to better understand different expectations between generations.

Whether you live (or even work!) to 100, the time is now to prepare for the workplace of the future. Understanding what makes each generation of employees tick is a great place to begin. As we continue the conversation:

  • Which finding on the infographic strikes you most? Why?
  • What is your organization already doing to better understand generations?
  • What questions do you have about generational differences in the workplace?