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7 DEI approaches to bridge generational differences in the workplace

Generational differences, Diversity equity and inclusion

First appeared in Forbes

I have seen a few managers and HR professionals make the mistake of thinking that Gen-Z is Millennials on steroids. There are some key differences that set them apart. (Disclaimer: Individual differences exist within any group.)

Generational differences in the workplace have been a topic of discussion for years, with Gen-Y (Millennials) and Gen-Z taking center stage in recent conversations. These two generations, roughly born between 1981 and 1996 (Gen-Y) and between 1996 and 2010 (Gen-Z), bring unique perspectives, values and expectations to the table.

As managers and HR professionals, it is crucial to address these differences and foster an environment where both generations can thrive.

Here's how you can do it, emphasizing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI):

1. Recognize the generational differences of the unique characteristics of Gen-Y and Gen-Z.

While it is essential to avoid stereotypes, understanding the distinct qualities of Gen-Y and Gen-Z is the foundation for effective management.

  • Engage in open conversations with your employees to learn about their values and aspirations. Encourage them to share their expectations regarding what makes a healthy and inclusive work environment.

Speaking broadly, Gen-Y tends to value work-life balance, purpose and social responsibility. They often seek collaboration, inclusivity and meaningful work.

Gen-Z tends to be pragmatic, tech-savvy and deeply committed to social justice and diversity. Many thrive on feedback, value stability and have a strong desire to make a positive impact.

2. Embrace technology to facilitate communication.

Both Gen-Y and Gen-Z have grown up in a digital world, but their preferences for communication can differ. Gen-Y tends to favor instant messaging and texting, emphasizing efficiency.

In contrast, Gen-Zers often value video and visual communication platforms like Zoom or Teams, appreciating authenticity and personalization.

Action Step: Create a tech-friendly environment that offers various communication channels to accommodate both generations. Encourage cross-generational mentoring and training sessions on various communication tools to help employees become more proficient with the technologies they are less familiar with.

3. Foster a diverse and inclusive workplace culture.

Diversity and inclusion are core values for Gen-Z. Many view these principles as essential components of their identity and actively seek environments that reflect them. Many focus on social justice and activism. They often fight for equity and equality; they tend to notice diversity only when lacking. DEI is part of their DNA. And most have a keen eye for authenticity, not just empty words, in DEI efforts.

Gen-Y, too, values inclusion and social responsibility. Most in this generation support equality and do not support prejudice or bias. They often care about charitable giving and volunteerism.

Action Step: Develop initiatives that promote diversity, equity and inclusion in your workplace. Encourage open conversations about diversity, and offer platforms for employees to share their experiences and perspectives. This should be a continuous effort, not a flavor of the month. Beyond hiring practices, focus on fostering a culture where all employees feel valued, heard and included.

Promote diversity and inclusion through visible leadership. Encourage leaders to publicly support DEI initiatives and share their personal commitments to creating an inclusive environment. This can set a powerful example.

4. Adapt your management style.

Understanding the different work preferences of Gen-Y and Gen-Z is crucial. Gen-Y may thrive in collaborative, open spaces, and Gen-Z may be more independent and entrepreneurial. Gen-Y tends to seek work-life balance first, while Gen-Z is often motivated by opportunities for advancement and job security.

Action Step: Tailor your management approach to accommodate these preferences. Offer flexibility and autonomy while providing clear objectives and continuous feedback. Implement a flexible workspace design that allows employees to choose the environment that suits their working style best. For example, create quiet spaces for focused work and collaborative zones for group projects.

5. Support lifelong learning.

Gen-Y often values higher education as a means of differentiation, while Gen-Z tends to be more focused on practical, on-demand learning. Gen-Zers are generally adept at self-guided learning and often seek mentorship for career advancement.

Action Step: Encourage continuous learning and offer mentorship programs that cater to both generations. Provide resources for ongoing skill development and career growth. Offer a range of learning opportunities, from traditional courses to online micro-learning modules.

6. Promote social entrepreneurship and impact.

Gen-Y is often drawn to purpose-driven work, while Gen-Z often seeks to make a significant impact in the world. Both generations appreciate recognition and a sense of community.

Action Step: Encourage employees to get involved in meaningful projects that align with the company's values. Create opportunities for employees to engage in socially responsible initiatives within and outside the workplace. Acknowledge and celebrate their contributions to meaningful causes, fostering a culture of purpose and impact.

7. Implement gamification and instant feedback.

Gen-Z, in particular, often thrives on gamified experiences that offer instant feedback. These approaches can help build a sense of community and motivate both generations.

Action Step: Incorporate gamification elements into employee training and skills development programs to recognize achievements. For example, you can introduce a point-based system for completing training modules or achieving specific goals, allowing employees to compete in a friendly, rewarding manner.

Another good approach is to provide regular feedback and recognition to keep employees engaged and motivated.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, understanding and embracing the differences between Gen-Y and Gen-Z is essential for building a harmonious and inclusive workplace.

Effectively bridging the generational differences between Gen-Y and Gen-Z in the workplace requires proactive efforts, open communication and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

By taking a DEI approach and embracing these action steps and insights, managers and HR professionals can create a harmonious work environment where all employees, regardless of their generation, feel valued, motivated and empowered to contribute their best to the organization's success.


My name is Sahar Andrade, I help organizations increase their employee engagement by investing in Diversity/Inclusion practices as well as through Leadership Development Coaching.

I coach successful leaders that are stuck to reinvent their lives with courage, release their fears, get clarity on their purpose and pursue their dreams.

My teachings, my unique education and experience combined with singular approach to realizing change, form a proven system for long lasting positive transformation.

My methodology is based on human psychology, N.L.P. practices and research to break down issues, reverse engineer them, and deconstruct personal myths, while developing personal leadership skills development. It is a simple step by step program, modules, exercises, one on one and group coaching.

This is my TED TALK : Overcoming Negative Thoughts

I am the founder of “Sahar Consulting, LLC” and “Reinvent Yourself to Greatness


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