Talent Management

Dec 01, 2021 11 min read

The ‘next normal’ workplace - A generational perspective

The author is Partner and Diversity & Inclusion Leader at Deloitte India.

Today, more than ever, organizations need to evolve strategies aimed at bringing out the best of their multi-generational workforce starting with understanding their underlying motivations and developing an inclusive mindset and culture, that aligns individual and organizational purpose to thrive in the ‘next normal’.

The pressing need to re-orient ways of working with a multi-generational workforce

The above anecdote brings to light similar situations encountered at the workplace, where mindset and attitude can influence key outcome especially in the backdrop of a multi-generational workforce.

Leveraging the power of a multi-generational workforce

Several organizations today are typically an amalgam of a four-generation workforce comprising Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials or Gen Y, and Gen Z.

Figure 1: The typical four generational workforce[1]

Our research reveals that seventy percent of organizations believe that leading multigenerational workforces is important or very important for their success over the next 12–18 months, but only 10 percent say they are very ready to address this trend[2]. It is important for us to therefore understand the underlying factors that can positively enable generational dynamics at workplaces.

Motivations and culture – the binding glue

Each generational segment is driven by a unique set of attitudes, values, preferences. Intrinsic needs and expectations of each generation from work and workplaces vary and yet it is imperative that we bring out the best in all to collectively achieve the organization’s aspirations.  Organizations are gradually recognizing the reality that motivations for the younger generations like Millennials - the future decision makers, vary significantly from the Boomers and Gen X – the senior leadership in many organizations today.

Our engagement with organizations reveals that two key dimensions drive the interactions amongst employees and bind them – motivation and culture. Culture impacts ways of working and ‘encodes’ norms of what is acceptable and what is not. Personal motivations unique to each individual, tend to impact their expectations in their everyday interactions.  While research corroborates the fact that generation has a bearing on the motivation driving employee behavior, it is also acknowledged that individual attributes play a significant role. A personalized approach would therefore enable people to maximize their contribution at work, derive enhanced meaning in their careers, and, ultimately, better align themselves with the purpose of the organization that understands what they can contribute, and also how they uniquely can do so.[3]

Decoding Millennials and Gen Z

As organizations reorient their strategies and ways of working in the ‘next normal,’ they are grappling with workforce retention, especially the younger generations which is heralded as they are the future decision-makers given their future-focus, ability to leverage digital proven capabilities to reshape the workplace[4]. Organizations therefore seek to understand what appeals to the young workforce so that there is alignment of purpose, thereby focusing on retention of Millennials and Gen Z.

Figure 2: Deloitte 2021 Millennial and Gen Z India Survey Findings[5]


For instance, our research indicates Millennials and Gen Z holding themselves and institutions accountable, in order to create a more sustainable and equitable world [6]. While organizations are examining a lean and agile way of work, this is not always aligned with the need to create an equitable world, which may cause dissonance with the younger workforce.

Does this therefore imply that we need multiple organization architectures to address diverse generational needs? The answer is a clear no!

The solution lies in creating an inclusive workplace where every dimension diversity be it generation or other, feel a sense of belonging and psychological safety to bring out the best of their authentic selves.

Leading in the ‘next normal’ with a purpose-led multi-generation workforce - A suggested approach

Purpose-led and future-ready, organizations need to adopt an entrepreneurial approach to create a harmonious environment that draws on the strengths of each generation at the workplace. This will entail a multi-pronged approach starting with grooming their leadership teams across generations with inclusive leadership attributes or traits via a series of workshops and labs.[7]

The Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership architected by Deloitte purposefully enables organizations to activate leaders’ awareness, develop and reinforce inclusive leadership capabilities; this has helped many organizations to effectively lead multigenerational workforces.

Every employee in the organization starting at the top, should be sensitized about minimizing unconscious biases at work and stereotyping, that may be linked to generation, gender, and other diversity dimensions.

Figure 3: The Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership[8]

This would also herald a culture that embraces diversity of thoughts and intersectionality, thereby enabling retention of the workforce, especially the younger generations. Senior leaders must also be proactive in sponsorship of high-potential talent, while being open to reverse mentoring by the younger generations so that they can collectively bring the best of themselves. Organizations will also benefit from building an active network of allies across various diversity dimensions including generation.  

Deloitte’s research in 2017 showed that organizations with diverse and more inclusive cultures were six times more likely to be innovative and agile, three times more likely to be high-performing, and two times more likely to meet or exceed financial targets[9]; they would therefore be better positioned to thrive in the ‘next normal’.


Innovative organizational strategies, driven by purpose-focused and inclusive leaders, and enabled by an inclusive culture in the backdrop of a multi-generational workforce are the likely winning combination to successfully thrive in the ‘next normal’.


[1] Source: How To Master The Multigenerational Workforce by Sharen Ross (Infographic adapted from Mazlo)

[2] Source: Deloitte Insights: Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2020

[3] Source: Deloitte Insights: Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2021

[4] Source: The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey: A decade in review (2021)

[5] Source: The Deloitte 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey | A call for accountability and action | India

[6] Source: Deloitte 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey - A call for accountability and action | India

[7] Source: Deloitte University Press (2016), The six signature traits of inclusive leadership - Thriving in a diverse new world

[8] Source: Deloitte University Press (2016), The six signature traits of inclusive leadership - Thriving in a diverse new world

[9] Source: Deloitte Research on High impact Diversity and Inclusion 2017


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