Generational Diversity at Work: A Systematic Review of the Research

72 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2015

Date Written: July 2015


For the first time in modern history, workplace demographics now span up to four distinct generations. Therefore, intergenerational diversity is a timely issue, gathering increasing interest amongst academics, organizations and business executives.

However, the evidence base in scholarly research on generational diversity at work is often contradictory and unclear. In this study we aim to identify and examine existing empirical research on generational differences in work-related characteristics to inform future focal areas for generational research related to leadership and management; as well as to synthesize the existing evidence of generational differences in a variety of work-related characteristics.

We conduct a systematic review of the literature to synthesize empirical research in a rigorous manner (following a disciplined screening process, a final sample of 50 studies is examined). In the analysis, six key themes emerge: communication and technology; work motivators or preferred job characteristics; work values; work attitudes; workplace/career behaviors; and leadership preferences or behaviors. Our systematic review also reveals that the majority of empirical studies provide results which fully or partially support the existence of generational diversity; highlighting the importance of future research to address the potential differing needs and characteristics of each generation as they interact and work within organizations.

Our study contributes to the development of generational theory, proposes specific areas for important future research priorities on the topic of generational diversity, and highlights some implications for organizational practice. Although the systematic review is not commonplace, our study does contribute to its application in the field of management.

Keywords: Generational Differences, Intergenerational, Communication, Work Values, Work Attitudes, Work Behaviors, Careers, Leadership, Systematic Review

Suggested Citation

Woodward, Ian and Vongswasdi, Pisitta and More, Elizabeth, Generational Diversity at Work: A Systematic Review of the Research (July 2015). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2015/48/OB. Available at SSRN: or

Ian Woodward (Contact Author)

INSEAD ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
77305 Fontainebleau Cedex

Pisitta Vongswasdi

INSEAD ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
77305 Fontainebleau Cedex

Elizabeth More

Australian Institute of Management ( email )


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