Continuing our blog series on “True Value”, we invited Vaibhavi Modi to reflect on intergenerational dialogue and on how it impacts public value creation. Vaibhavi Modi is finishing her MBA at the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management and is deeply interested in understanding what makes any purchase tangible: “Maybe just telling people that something is sustainable is not enough? Putting a value on how well spent someone’s money is would make any purchase more tangible”, she writes in a comment on social media.
We are publishing below parts of the publication Intergenerational Dialogue that Vaibhavi wrote for Your Public Value:
“Intergenerational interaction can be challenging in workplaces, where four generations are said to now be working together: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Y and Gen Z. We now live in a global village; technology and connectivity are driving the nature of collaboration and information exchange on all levels across countries and cultures. Although diversity and inclusion today is about the multiplication of individualities, the multiplication of complex societal issues such as racism, sexism, classism, sexualism, sizeism, ethnicism and several other biases put people into boxes with respect to their social and other identities.
Progress in science has led to a longer life expectancy over the years. Although the demographic shift differs across the eastern and western worlds, there is a palpable and almost ironic similarity in mindset with regards to age as another basis of prejudice. At YOUR PUBLIC VALUE, we believe that companies can also engage in the creation or delivery of public value by considering the society that upholds shared values an active stakeholder. Belonging is one of such shared values.
The Impact of Ageism
The term ‘ageism’ was coined by Robert Butler and is essentially the stereotyping of individuals and their unfair treatment due to their age. An example could be a person getting fired from their job because they were considered too old to be able to fulfil that position or job role- , companies prefer younger professionals who they can shape, rather than professionals with more experience, more expensive, and often unwilling to change.
However, it is not only older people who are subject to ageism. Ageism is also faced by the young, who could, for instance, risk not landing a job simply because of the perception that young people switch jobs frequently, or that young females could request maternity leaves.
So why really is age perceived to be a problem?
Several theories have been connected to the emergence of this type of intolerance. An interesting paper relates Terror Management Theory to the concept of Ageism. The authors of this theory present two implications:
• self-esteem and the worldview on which it is based serve as anxiety-buffering functions, so people work towards preserving this self-esteem to preserve their psychological security,
• these efforts are in line with each individual’s cultural worldview
Since these are fragile social constructions, people react negatively to anyone or anything that challenges the construct they have built.
In the context of Ageism, older individuals indicate the future, i.e. they may be a reminder of inevitable mortality. On the other hand, younger people can serve as a reminder of the past, of what could have been.
Prejudices and biases could also be attributed to the vastly divergent realities that each generation has lived through. These distinctive experiences can be linked to unique needs. According to Maslow, who proposed the Hierarchy of Needs, needs shape value systems. Thus, it can be inferred that, for example, Baby Boomers, who grew up in the post war world would have a separate set of values in comparison with Generation Y, which was brought up in a world of globalisation and economic stability along with the advent of internet and hence faster connectivity.
Why Focus on Intergenerational Dialogue
Both older and younger adults face discrimination. For example, a UN report mentions how training and education opportunities reduce for people as they age and how young voices are rejected or disregarded when it comes to health, housing and politics. Not only does ageism affect individuals, it also drives up the cost of healthcare significantly, leading to economic consequences which are in turn exacerbated by a lower health standard in the population resulting in lower productivity.
At the workplace, ageism also has negative effects. It affects the self- esteem of individuals and reduces motivation and job satisfaction. Ageism is also connected with intergroup anxiety, which refers to the anxiety related to anticipation of rejection, negative consequences or a sense of discomfort when interacting in a group.
By now, we all know that the pandemic times can lead to a severe loss of freedom and financial autonomy worldwide, that states may not be able to sustain their citizens for long and could be tempted to close borders and increase control. We also know that citizens’ survival and wellbeing will increasingly depend on their ability to sustain themselves and their family, away from any state dependency. Focusing on engaged young people who need to develop in a world full of barriers and stereotypes, YOUR PUBLIC VALUE has the objective to support their empowerment, wellbeing and sustainability.
Intergenerational Dialogue as Value Creation
Extant research shows that there are far more perceived rather than actual differences. There is no dearth of papers and articles that promote intergenerational dialogue and explain it with a ‘what’ and a ‘why’. At YOUR PUBLIC VALUE, we go one step further and provide the ‘how’. We do not believe that intergenerational differences are negative. Rather, we embrace the complexity of these differences and believe that its intricacies are what make up the solution.
Our research has shown that what young people need most when starting their professional life is active networking. Multiplying connections on LinkedIn is no longer enough. Being acknowledged by leaders and finding a mentor who cares and is able to share their knowledge are very much in demand.
While baby Boomers are currently the oldest and most experienced generation in the workforce, Generation Z is said to be the most diverse, i.e. they are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation so far in the history of the world. Race is presently one of the top for bases for discrimination, and the diversity in GenZ will mean that tolerance towards racism, or discrimination in general will reduce to a great extent.
Below are both recommendations that YOUR PUBLIC VALUE offers in this publication:
CONSIDER INTERGENERATIONAL DIALOGUE AS PART OF VALUE CREATION
In today’s times, when people feel the threat of becoming inconsequential and by extension want to feel seen and heard, the best way for businesses to attract success amongst fierce competition is to make customers feel valued. This way, customers feel like they belong. Belonging, in turn, leads to loyalty and contributes to the long-term growth of the company.Intergenerational dialogue functions only when the comments collected during such dialogue are properly integrated into the company’s strategy.
INCLUDE AN INTERGENERATIONAL DIMENSION IN DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
On the backdrop of a more open culture, communication will become key to cooperation between generations, facilitating a symbiotic relationship between different schools of thought, beliefs and experiences, thus resulting in harmonious co-existence. An inclusive strategy with regular reporting on its progress is proper service to society.”
Are you interested in sharing your vision of true value? Please leave a comment below and we’ll reach out to you!