HomeTalent ManagementGenerational intelligence: Moving through the pain points of the unprecedented period of generational shift

Generational intelligence: Moving through the pain points of the unprecedented period of generational shift

By Tricia Jones

The workplace of the future is here. As we find ourselves in a technology-driven, ever-changing 21st century, we are challenged with a new reality: to adapt to the inevitable changes that this new workplace reality brings.

One of the biggest shifts has got to be the generational shift that is happening in the workplace today. Here are some of the highlights:

  • By 2020, millennials will make up 50% of the workforce according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’s “Millennials at Work”.
  • Career progression is no longer determined by the hours you spend slogging away in the office but is now rather determined by results.
  • Loyalty is no longer a measure of those results, and the new generation seems loyal only to businesses that provide them with the opportunity to produce results, and for the timeframe it takes to deliver them.
  • Social technologies mean that the way we communicate is more open, social and collaborative, challenging the traditional autocratic leadership styles of older generations.

A new norm in the making

For the first time in history, we now have five generations in the workplace, working side by side.

Take a moment to let that sink in.

Largely due to our advances in increasing life expectancy, resulting in people living and therefore working longer, we are now faced with this new reality, which is shaking the very foundation of traditional business models, structures and practices.

We can see that traditional organisational structures have been thrown out the window when we consider that right now, baby boomers are reporting to millennials and these millennials much prefer a networking structure as an alternative to the traditional hierarchy.

Then there is technology and globalization, which has resulted in a more flexible workplace with employees now choosing when, where and how they want to work. This, coupled with the speed at which technology changes and the demand younger generations have for it, means we need to innovate faster to stay ahead of the game.

Think about what new challenges and opportunities these changes may bring.

Shaping the future of business

This generational shift has been the catalyst for bold moves by big businesses such as Investec’s CEO, Stephen Koseff, stepping down to allow the ‘next gen’ leaders to take over, as reported in a previous Talent Talks article. This is “part of Investec’s succession plan to put fresh leadership in place to move the company forward… to move from the founding members to a next generation of leadership.”

According to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, ‘organisation of the future’ was a top priority for businesses in Africa, with 30% saying it’s important and a whopping 57% saying it is very important.

Source: 2017 Global Human Capital Trends Dashboard



However, this is not an entirely new realisation considering that this picture hasn’t changed much from the priorities we saw in 2016, with South African businesses already then saying that “The New Organisation” was a priority.

The old adage of ‘adapt or die’ reminds us that if we do not adapt, we may run the risk of becoming obsolete; that only the fittest will survive and that to be fit, we must be willing to transform to live and survive in our new reality.


Cultivating generational intelligence

So, what are we doing to address this very important business need? Burying our heads in the sand and hoping that if we ignore it, it might go away, probably won’t work. Perhaps we should start by exploring the option of growing our generational intelligence.

Amy Lynch defines ‘generational intelligence’ as:

“…raising your awareness of cross-generational interactions. By doing so, you can develop a skill we all very much need today: the awareness and social savvy it takes to lead, influence and work with people who are not like you. And that can help you succeed.”


A glance at the workplace today

Let’s refocus for a moment and consider the value of each generation in the workplace today:

  • Traditionalists: (Born 1900-1945) bring a hard-working mentality, are reliable and loyal.
  • Baby Boomers: (Born 1946-1964) bring optimism, a go-getter attitude and a team player spirit.
  • Gen Xers: (Born 1965-1976) bring practicality, independence and a solution focus.
  • Millennials: (Born 1977-1997) bring innovation, a sense of community, confidence and enthusiasm.
  • Gen 2020ers: (Born after 1997) bring optimism, high expectations and a belief that anything is possible.


With all these qualities in one team, you need not look any further for the answers. Everything you need to prepare yourself for the workplace of the future is right there, in your workplace, working side by side right now.

The future of the workplace may be filled with many shifts and changes, but how we choose to respond to them will determine how we create an extraordinary tomorrow.

The workplace of the future is here. Get ready…

Here are some ideas to help you with that:

  • Nimico’s series of Leader2Leader Conversations provides an opportunity for leaders within organisations to stay up-to-date with relevant leadership challenges, opportunities and trends that are currently impacting them. Explore the current conversations of generational intelligence as a means to understand other generations and lead and influence those generations.
  • Seek to understand and appreciate the unique life experiences that have shaped the behaviours, values and perceptions of each generation.
  • Explore the unique motivators and drivers of each generation to encourage performance and engagement and drive retention to maximise their unique strengths.
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Tricia Jones is founder and managing member of a people-development and coaching business, Capacity Builder. She is as passionate about people personally, as she is about their development professionally. Her practice is based largely on a set of success minded principles made famous by John Grinder and Richard Bandler through their work with NLP (Neuro Linguistics Programming); as well as the latest positive psychology, emotional intelligence and neuroscience research on how to tap into internal resources to increase individual, team and organisational performance and effectiveness.


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