Generational Diversity

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) conference in San Diego, CA. The theme of the conference was “crossing borders and bridging communities”. There was one particular session I attended during my time at the conference that stuck out to me and it was a session about generational diversity.

The session noted something that I had clearly been oblivious to; that college campuses in present time is made up of FIVE different generations. The people that represent the five different generations are the following:

Silent Generation: Born Between 1945-1963

Baby Boomers: Born Between 1964-1977

Gen X: Born Between 1978-1989

Gen Y (Millennials): Born Between 1990-1996

Gen Z: Born Between 1997-2010

The oldest generation or silent generation may be nearing retirement as employees or finishing their dreams of earning a degree as students. Millennials are fresh into the workforce or maintaining earning their college degree. The Gen Z population are brand new to the young adult college life. I want to recognize that as a person belonging to the Gen Y (Millennials) population we are not the young kids we once were but now succeeding adults. The transition to recognize the difference in characteristics and age gaps of millennials and Gen Z seem to be unclear to generations born before us.

Now, the question is how are our institutions serving such a wide variety of needs and expectations of five very different generations.

The silent generation prefer face to face communication yet millennials prefer email and text messages. Baby boomers value independence and making a difference is the most impactful principle. Yet, Gen Z values innovation and creating entrepreneur opportunities. In most circumstances, our institutions were founded and/or built to serve the silent generation, then at some point updated to serve Baby Boomers, the updates lagged until the millennials. Unfortunately, we are delayed in production to update our practices, policies, and physical spaces to cater to Gen Z to be reactive rather than proactive.  Before we know it, the next generation, Generation Alpha will be entering our college campuses and they will surely require a more complex and diverse set of expectations.

As we develop new ideas and innovative practices to benefit employees and students I challenge you to think how can you serve, benefit, and respect all five generations in retrospect that you serve.

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