The 5G Workplace

Monday, May 19, 2014

Today’s workforce is decidedly multigenerational. It is comprised of five generations— Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (or Millennials), and a smattering of Generation Z—whose life experiences have left indelible marks on their values and work preferences. This rapid and unprecedented demographic shift has many business leaders wondering how organizations will adapt to the “5G” workplace.

A new UNC Executive Development white paper Managing the Multigenerational Workplace  explores this rapid and unprecedented demographic shift that has many business leaders wondering how their organizations will adapt to the “5G” workplace.

According to white paper authors, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Program Director Dan Bursch and UNC Executive Development Director Kip Kelly, organizations that proactively address the different generations will reap the benefits, while those that ignore the impact of the multigenerational workforce risk losing the race for talent. 


Bursch and Kelly advise HR and talent management professionals to “keep two concepts in mind when creating a plan to manage an organization’s multigenerational workforce: honor each generation’s unique contributions while focusing on their similarities.”

Managing the Multigenerational Workplace details the following steps for creating a roadmap that fosters a collaborative multigenerational workforce.

  • Communicate appropriately, gearing messages for generational preferences.
  • Create programs that encourage generations to work together and to share knowledge.
  • Build diverse teams of all ages, gender, and cultures. These teams will learn to value and trust each other.
  • Encourage business leaders at all levels to be flexible in their management styles. Some generations want hands-off leaders, others want a more involved management style.

Tips highlighted in the white paper will help organizations create common ground among generations, but Bursch and Kelly remind business leaders to develop policies and programs that will help meet each generation’s unique needs and expectations.
To learn more about the 5G workplace, including major attributes of the five generations, common ground the generations share, and key multigenerational challenges download the white paper from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Resource Library.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at 

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