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Al's column: Managing multiple generations in the workplace

June 5/12, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 26

By Matt Beaudreau

 

(First of two parts)

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 10.52.32 AMAcross many businesses today—including the flooring industry—there are as many as five generations working together. That’s a phenomenon unprecedented in the history of the U.S. workforce. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity. I will share some insights about how the flooring industry can work collaboratively across the various generations to improve communication and work processes.

First, it’s important to understand how the different generations think before beginning to understand their views on work. The parents of millennials, for example, are predominantly boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). I often make fun of them in my presentations, but the fact of the matter is they have a lot of the skills we [millennials] don’t have. What everyone needs to understand about the baby boomers is they were taught to measure work ethic in terms of hours per week—and those hours do not count unless they can physically see you. That’s why they get to work so early. Boomers also believe there are not shortcuts to success. They believe you have to put in your dues and have policies, processes and procedures.

As a manager or co-worker, if you’re dealing with the boomer generation, you need to acknowledge the time they’re putting in—not just that week but over the course of their career because there is a lot of wisdom there. Also, they are the only generation that can think in a linear fashion, which is a helpful skill if you have a project where you’re looking to make something more efficient.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.49.34 PMNow let’s talk about millennials. This is not only your greatest group of customers but they are also now your largest group of employees. That being said, it’s important to dispel a common myth about millennials: They are not ‘tech savvy,’ as many people like to believe. Actually, they have no idea how technology works; they just know they can’t live without it. Rather, millennials are ‘tech dependent.’ That’s a critical distinction you have to make. As an employer of millennials, you also need to understand this: A generation that is tech dependent partially defines their relationship with you as a boss and with you as a company based on their technological relationship with you.

Then there’s ‘Gen Z,’ which is coming up right behind the millennials. They’re also tech dependent, but they paid attention to what the millennials went through. For example, they saw millennials get crushed under college debt, so for the most part they are picking less expensive colleges. That’s part of the reason why they are coming out of college with a lowered expectation of the workplace—which is great news for employers. In addition, Gen Zers tend to be very entrepreneurial and innovative, and they’re very hard working.

If you manage or work alongside millennials and Gen Zers, you need to understand the ways they prefer to communicate.

No. 1: Text messaging. Millennials hate detailed voice messages; they’re not going to listen to them. No longer is it considered unprofessional to text your boss or co-workers.
No. 2: Email. The magic for email is the subject line. What’s in there will determine if the employee is going to open the email in the first place. Use quick bullet points to get to the point.
No. 3: Social media. The shift has happened (similar to the move from radio to TV). Communication is all about getting attention.
No. 4: Telephone.
No. 5: Face to face.
Many millennials have degrees in communications, but eye contact freaks them out.

 

Matt Beaudreau is a certified keynote speaker at The Center for Generational Kinetics, headquartered in Austin, Texas. He is a millennial who has a reputation as a thought leader amongst his generation.