In today’s business landscape, diversity and inclusion is not only important for prosocial reasons, but there is very much a business case for diversity. That’s why Towson University is developing a Leading Diversity and Inclusion program. My colleagues and I have taken cutting-edge research and empirical data, and combined it with industry best practices and experience to provide a truly innovative solution to this complex challenge. Over the next few weeks, I will publish a series of blog posts regarding this new program.

For the first time in history, there are five different generations in the workplace. Each of these cohorts undoubtedly has its own desires and motives in regards to what they want from their work. Unfortunately, many organizations have yet to identify what these unique needs are, and thus have failed to tap into the potential that is inherent in having such a diverse workforce. In order to bring some clarity to this issue, let us first begin by defining these generations:

  • Traditionalists: Born between the years 1928 and 1944.
  • Baby Boomers: Born between the years 1945 and 1964.
  • Generation-X: Born between the years 1965 and 1979.
  • Millenials or Generation-Y: Born between the years 1980 and 1994.
  • Generation-Z: Born after 1995.

Along with their age differences, research shows that each generation has a unique take on the very concept of work itself. Some see it as a transactional process by which they can gain important resources and status. Meanwhile, others view work as a means to make an impact in their society and find meaning in their lives. It is important to note that there are no right or wrong answers in terms of what work should be. In this regard, the old adage “different strokes for different folks” certainly rings true.

Though they can be a strength, generational differences can also invoke significant conflict in the workplace if co-workers lack awareness of what their peers want from their careers. This might explain why 40% of HR professionals currently report observing conflict among employees because of generational differences. If we take a look at large organizations with 500 or more employees, this issue is even more pronounced, with 58% of HR professionals reporting conflict between younger and older workers, largely due to differing perceptions of work ethic and work/life balance.

Taken together, these incredible demographic surges—along with the potential challenges that they bring—make understanding generational diversity critical for today’s organizations. In the Leading Diversity and Inclusion program, we tackle these issues head-on by taking an empirical approach to solving these problems in a practical manner. Specifically, Towson University’s program aims to achieve the following three objectives:

  1. In order to enhance awareness, we will do a comprehensive overview of the unique desires and motivates of each of the 5 generations in the modern workplace.
  2. To translate this awareness into action, we will work through real-life case studies of organizations that have successfully navigated these issues.
  3. Finally, we will have a discussion with local leaders in order to contextualize our learning outcomes.

Interested in learning more about Towson University’s Leading Diversity and Inclusion program? Contact my colleague Bernie Reynolds or visit

Read part two: Where East meets West: Leading teams in a globalized business landscape
Read part three: The dark side of mental shortcuts: How heuristics can foster stereotypes in the workplace