As boomers age and retire, filling the gaps they leave can become a daunting task, especially when managing three different generations of workers.
Speaking at the 2015 International Builders’ Show, Sarah Sladek, CEO of management consulting firm XYZ University, said it’s critically important for employers to recognize and acknowledge that baby boomers and Generations X, Y and Z have widely different approaches to work.
Understanding each generation’s work ethic can help an employer more effectively leverage its talent pool, guide and spur existing staff, measure, bridge and fill and workforce gaps, and successfully drive employees toward greater achievement.
For example, workers who grew up during the industrial era usually view work in a different light than those who grew up in a digital, knowledge-based economy.
“When baby boomers go to work, they expect defined hours and a defined place. Work has always happened face to face,” Sladek said. “For Gen X and especially, Gen Y, work can happen anywhere, at any time. They don’t think of work as a destination. Generation Y says, ‘I don’t need to be face to face. We don’t have to have another meeting. Let’s resolve this via email and text.’”
In fact, access to technology is akin to oxygen and freedom for Gen X and Gen Y, but especially for Gen Y, because they’ve never known life without it, Sladek said.
Another striking difference in the generations: Gen Y focuses much more heavily on what’s happening now and quite frequently has difficulty with scheduling and planning, Sladek said.
“The issue with that, is that home building does have to follow a production schedule,” she said. “They live in the age of instant gratification and don’t like drawn-out processes. For them, things simply aren’t happening fast enough, and that can become a problem.”
Boomers, on the other hand, prefer detailed dialogue about projects and tasks, which can turn into long meetings and phone calls. The conflict caused by these two distinct work ethics creates turnover, which means lost productivity and lost money.
While, Gen Xers like their independence and doing what makes them happy, they want to be trusted to see the job through. They hate to be micromanaged, hate to be overlooked and hate unrewarded loyalty. For Gen X, work-life balance equates to success.
The Xers, often characterized as latchkey kids, raised themselves and as a result, became helicopter parents to their children: the Millennials.
“Millennials are the most protected, most supervised and most provided for generation in history,” Sladek said.
Because they’re accustomed to more interaction, they need constant feedback – preferably by text or other current technology. They want to immediately know how they’re doing, what’s in it for them, and what’s their return on investment, Sladek said.
Though they want structure and can handle constructive criticism pretty well, they hate when anyone dismisses them for lack of experience: Success for them is defined by happiness.
For boomers, who strive to leave a legacy, success is defined by position and salary increases, and whether or not they’ve achieved financial independence.
And then there’s Gen Z – the digital natives. This generation will join the workforce in the next few years, and Sladek advises employers to get ready.
“If you’ve had difficulty engaging Gen Y, well get ready for Gen Z. Gen Z is Gen Y on steroids,” Sladek said.
The advantage of having a multigenerational team is the unique mishmash of strengths, ideas and approaches to obstacles and problems you get, Sladek said. The key to success is figuring out how to seamlessly integrate these facets without alienating team members.
To foster positive relationships among all of your employees, Sladek recommends more coaching and less management; mutual respect, no matter the position or title; and team building activities such as training, weekly meetings and fun after-hours events.